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AG Mark Herring Fights Trump Administration on Seismic Testing in Atlantic, Title X “Gag Rule”


AG Mark Herring continues to do excellent work in a number of areas. See below for two new items: 1) working to halt environmentally harmful seismic testing off Virginia’s Atlantic coast; and 2) “challenging the constitutionality of a new rule Title X ‘Gag Rule’ that will significantly restrict access to reproductive health services and information for women and families.”

RICHMOND (March 6, 2019) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring, along with eight other attorneys general, has joined a group of non-governmental organizations to temporarily halt the Trump Administration’s authorization for proposed seismic testing that would open the door to allow oil drilling off the coast of Virginia and other Atlantic Coast states that could result in severe and irreparable harm to coastal and marine resources, including our vibrant coastal economy and military operations in Hampton Roads.
Last month, the court granted Attorney General Herring and his colleagues’motion to intervene in a pending lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and federal officials that was filed in South Carolina by a coalition of local and national non-governmental organizations. To prevent any seismic testing from occurring while the lawsuit is under way, the states joined in those organizations’ motion for a preliminary injunction.
“An oil spill of any kind off the coast of Virginia could have devastating consequences, and we have made it clear that we do not want offshore drilling on our coasts that could threaten our economy and our environment,” said Attorney General Herring. “The Trump Administration’s policies are focused on lining the pockets of oil and gas companies, instead of considering the harmful economic and environmental effects of their actions. My colleagues and I will continue to make our objections to offshore drilling known and do everything we can to stop this risky practice off Virginia’s beautiful coast.”
In July 2017, Attorney General Herring wrote to the NMFS urging it deny applications to conduct seismic testing, citing the dangers that seismic testing and offshore drilling could pose to Virginia’s coastal economies and environments.
Despite widespread criticism of the proposed testing from the scientific community and the public, NMFS granted the applications for seismic testing in November 2018. In challenging the authorization, the coalition of attorneys general charges that NMFS’s approval violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Administrative Procedure Act.
Specifically, in Virginia, offshore drilling would threaten the Chesapeake Bay, military installations including Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia’s $1 billion coastal tourism industry which supports 45,000 jobs, and its seafood industries which support thousands of jobs and generate millions of dollars in economic activity.
Joining Attorney General Herring in today’s filing are the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, and North Carolina.
~ The new “Gag Rule” will significantly restrict access to reproductive health services and information for women and families ~
RICHMOND (March 5, 2019) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today announced that Virginia has joined 21 state attorneys general in filing a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a new rule Title X “Gag Rule” that will significantly restrict access to reproductive health services and information for women and families. Attorney General Herring announced yesterday that he intended to sue. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Eugene, Oregon and seeks to halt the Trump Administration’s proposed changes to Title X that would freeze out healthcare providers like Planned Parenthood and limit the information and range of healthcare services that low-income Virginians may receive through the Title X program. Additionally, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Medical Association also filed a parallel lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court in Eugene.
“The Trump Administration continues to chip away at women’s health care and their right to make their own, informed choices when it comes to their bodies,”said Attorney General Herring. “The changes to these regulations would put the health of women across Virginia in danger and undermine the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship. Women should be able to turn to the provider they know and trust when they are making personal decisions about their health.”
The rule relates to funding for Title X, the only federal grant program that funds family planning programs to help patients access contraception, breast and cervical cancer screenings, well-woman exams, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and other related health services.
The lawsuit filed today alleges that the Title X rule, if implemented, would reduce access and erode the quality of reproductive health care that Title X was originally intended to provide care for low income individuals. The new rule would also interfere with the health care provider and patient relationship, by limiting what a doctor can say to a patient.
Under the new rule issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, providers in any clinic that receives Title X funding will be barred from referring a patient for an abortion, even if she requests that information, and in many circumstances even discussing an abortion with a patient. The new rule also mandates a referral for prenatal care for every pregnant patient, regardless of the needs or the wishes of the patient.
In 2017, more than 50,000 Virginians received care through the Title X program, 65% of whom were uninsured. In 38% of Virginia localities the Title X provider is the only public healthcare provider and the clinics in these localities provided care to 24,120 women in 2015. The proposed rule would lead to higher costs for Virginia’s taxpayers. The Commonwealth received $4.45 million in Title X grants in 2017 and an additional $13 million could be at risk if VDH were to refuse funds altogether.
Attorney General Herring had previously promised to protect the Title X program from the Trump Administration’s proposed changed, and submitted official comments opposing the proposed changes.
Joining Attorney General Herring in the lawsuit are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

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