Supreme Court & Abortion Funding: Planned Parenthood Case Challenging Trump’s Title X Rule

    The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

    The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving federal funding of abortion providers in the U.S. Early last week, the Court granted cert in a case challenging the “Protect Life” rule, which the Trump administration enacted to prevent abortion providers from obtaining federal funding through the Title X family planning program.

    The rule, put in place in 2019 by the Health and Human Services Department, required groups that receive federal money through Title X to financially separate their provision of abortion from their other work in order to remain eligible for the funding.

    Rather than comply with the rule and separate its abortion business from its other components, Planned Parenthood withdrew from the Title X program, costing the group about $60 million in federal funding — a pittance of the half a billion dollars that the group receives each year from the federal government, most of which comes in the form of Medicaid reimbursements.

    But the abortion provider did not go quietly. Planned Parenthood, joined by the American Medical Association, the Oregon Medical Association, and local Planned Parenthood affiliates filed a lawsuit against the federal government. The suit alleged that the Protect Life rule would “radically alter and decimate the family-planning-assistance program established by Title X . . . with severe and irreparable public health consequences across the United States.”

    Meanwhile, led by Attorney General Xavier Becerra, California and another 20 states sued the Trump administration over the policy on similar grounds.

    Nearly two years later, the lawsuits have resulted in a circuit-court split, with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the Protect Life rule in February 2020 and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against the Trump administration last September.

    In the wake of that disagreement, the Supreme Court has agreed to take up the case and determine whether the federal government may require Title X providers to financially demarcate their abortion business in order to qualify for funding.

    In the meantime, Joe Biden has already intimated that his HHS Department — perhaps led by Becerra — will likely undo the Protect Life rule. In an executive order in late January, Biden instructed HHS to review the rule and any other Title X policies that “impose undue restrictions on the use of Federal funds or women’s access to complete medical information.”

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