Court Upholds Trump Administration’s ‘Protect Life Rule’

A doctor who performs abortions said she should be able to express her pro-choice beliefs.

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Monday that the Trump administration’s “Protect Life Rule,” which marks a clear distinction between abortion and family planning, is constitutional.

The en banc Ninth Circuit ruled, 7-4, that the injunctions against enforcement of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Title X family planning funding rule be vacated.

In her opinion, Judge Sandra Ikuta, an appointee of President George W. Bush, showed that the distinction between family planning and abortion in Title X, which was first enacted in 1970, is not an invention of the Trump administration:

Title X of the Public Health Service Act gives the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) authority to make grants to support “voluntary family planning projects” for the purpose of offering “a broad range of acceptable and effective family planning methods and services.” … Section 1008 of Title X prohibits grant funds from “be[ing] used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”

The judge noted that while “[r]egulations issued in 1988, and upheld by the Supreme Court in 1991, completely prohibited the use of Title X funds in projects where clients received counseling or referrals for abortion as a method of family planning,” those “issued in 2000 were more permissive.”

Ikuta also pointed out the abortion lobby’s insistence on referring to the Protect Life Rule as a “gag” order on abortion counseling is inaccurate.

“[T]he 2019 rule is less restrictive in at least one important respect: a counselor providing nondirective pregnancy counseling ‘may discuss abortion’ so long as ‘the counselor neither refers for, nor encourages, abortion,’” the judge wrote, and added:

Plaintiffs, including several states and private Title X grantees, brought various suits challenging the 2019 rule, and three district courts in three states entered preliminary injunctions against HHS’s enforcement of the rule. In light of Supreme Court approval of the 1988 regulations and our broad deference to agencies’ interpretations of the statutes they are charged with implementing, plaintiffs’ legal challenges to the 2019 rule fail. Accordingly, we vacate the injunctions entered by the district courts and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

The abortion lobby and its allies attacked the decision:

National pro-life organizations, however, celebrated the ruling.

“Americans United for Life is grateful that the court of appeals has seen through the false cries of the abortion industry and upheld a rule that protects women’s health as well as taxpayer’s consciences,” said Catherine Glenn Foster, president & CEO of Americans United for Life (AUL), in a statement sent to Breitbart News. “We look forward to the implementation of the rule in a way that ensures that no public funding is ever used for elective abortions.”

“The court of appeals further observed correctly that, contrary to assertions by Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups, the Protect Life Rule is not a ‘gag rule’ prohibiting discussion of abortion,” Foster noted.

AUL explained the Trump administration proposed its rule “to increase compliance with Title X‘s statutory mandates by requiring program participants to maintain physical and financial separation between their abortion services and Title X projects, as well as prohibiting direct abortion counseling and abortion referrals.”

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said:

Today’s ruling is a vindication of President Trump’s pro-life policies and a victory for the American people. Abortion is not ‘family planning’ and a strong majority of Americans – including 42 percent of Independents and more than one third of Democrats – oppose taxpayer funding of abortion.

The Trump administration issued its final rule in February 2019. The Protect Life Rule was scheduled to go into effect on May 3, but eight pro-abortion groups filed legal challenges against the final rule, including two each in California, Oregon, and Washington.

In July, Planned Parenthood – the nation’s largest abortion business – announced it would drop out of the Title X program and forego nearly $60 million in taxpayer funding rather than comply with the rule. Since that time, the organization has pressured states into making up the federal Title X funding it voluntarily gave up to protect abortion.

“For too long, the Title X family planning program operated as a marketing slush fund for abortion vendors who abused the system to sell abortions,” said Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins in a statement sent to Breitbart News.

“Taxpayers have been loud and clear that they don’t want their scarce resources to underwrite the abortion industry, making this a victory for sound public policy and fiscal responsibility,” Hawkins added. “Pregnancy is not a disease cured by abortion, and women have many healthcare options for full-service care making Planned Parenthood’s involvement in family planning programs irrelevant and unnecessary.”


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