Ninth Circuit ruling upholds 30-year old rule prohibiting Title X funding of abortions

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday lifted national injunctions that halted new Trump administration rules prohibiting taxpayer-funded health clinics from promoting or providing abortions.

The appeals court ruling, sought by President Donald Trump, overturns the stays granted by lower federal courts in Oregon and Washington, and a statewide injunction in California.

“Absent a stay, HHS will be forced to allow taxpayer dollars to be spent in a manner that it has concluded violates the law, as well as the Government’s important policy interest in ensuring that taxpayer dollars do not go to fund or subsidize abortions,” the judges wrote.

The 3-0 ruling affects 20 states that sued the administration over the new rule earlier this year, although it will let the cases play out in court. The judges said the Trump administration’s position would likely win because the rule attempting to be enforced was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court roughly 30 years ago.

Trump has been trying to enforce what is called the “Protect Life Rule,” which prohibits the use of federal Title X tax money “to perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning.”

It specifies: “None of the funds appropriated under this title shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”

Title X was created in 1970. After Roe v. Wade and toward the end of President Ronald Reagan’s last term, the Department of Health and Human Services introduced the policy to enforce the distinction between family planning and abortion. The rule was challenged in court and was ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court in Rust v. Sullivan during the Clinton Administration.

Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama did not enforce Title X’s stipulations.

Barring further court orders, the Trump administration can now enforce the rule, the Ninth Circuit ruled.

The rule change stipulates that recipients of Title X funds will no longer be allowed to provide abortion services in the same facilities that house their Title X family planning programs. It also removes the requirement that federally funded family planning clinics offer abortion counseling and referrals.

Abortion providers will now lose their Title X funding unless they financially and physically separate their abortion operations from the rest of their business operations.

“This rule gives abortion providers a fair choice: Separate your abortion activities from your federally-funded family planning programs or stop receiving federal funds,” Jason J. McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (NYCF), said in a statement. “American tax dollars should not be used to support abortion.”

According to Planned Parenthood’s most recent annual report, its facilities performed more than 332,000 abortions last fiscal year, accounting for more than one-third of the estimated annual abortions in the U.S. It stands to lose $60 million per year through Title X funding.

The organization still receives a minimum of $500 million in federal funds annually through Medicaid reimbursements.

Planned Parenthood said it would ask the circuit court to reconsider its decision.

“The Title X gag rule is censoring doctors and nurses,” Dr. Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told CBS News.

California was the first state to sue over the rule change this spring, followed by 19 additional states and the District of Columbia.

Also this spring, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2016 law that halted state taxpayer money from funding abortion facilities in Ohio.

This legislative session, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law ending taxpayer funding of abortion facilities and their affiliates, effective Sept. 1.

Texas Sen. Donna Campbell, who sponsored the bill, said, taxpayer dollars “should not be used for abortion facilities or their affiliates.” The law ends what Campbell calls “sweetheart rent deals” like in Austin where Planned Parenthood’s rental agreement with the city was for $1 per year.

This article was first published by The Center Square.

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