The 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals ruled Monday that the Trump administration may continue enforcing its “Protect Life Rule,” which disqualifies family planning clinics that promote abortion services from receiving federal taxpayer funding.
Monday’s 7-4 ruling by the full court upholds a three-judge panel’s ruling last June that had lifted a temporary injunction against enforcing the 2019 rule. The latest ruling also vacates multiple injunctions from lower courts.
Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia are suing over the rule, which also requires “clear financial and physical separation between Title X-funded projects and programs or facilities where abortion is a method of family planning.”
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Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett, a George W. Bush appointee, ruled in favor of the state of Maryland defying the federal policy.
And last August, Planned Parenthood, the United States’ largest abortion provider, announced it was withdrawing from the Title X program, thus forgoing nearly $60 million in taxpayer funding.
In the majority opinion released with this week’s ruling, Circuit Judge Sandra Ikuta wrote: “Regulations 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.”
Ikuta wrote further: “But the 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’ … There is no ‘gag’ on abortion counseling.”
Lawsuits filed against the federal pro-life policy in California, Oregon and Washington “will not succeed” on the merits, Ikuta predicted.
The Protect Life Rule prohibits Title X grantees from providing or referring patients for abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or medical emergency. The rule also requires recipients of Title X federal planning funds to be physically and financially separate from abortion operations.
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser lauded the 9th Circuit’s ruling. “Abortion is not ‘family planning’ and a strong majority of Americans—including 42% of Independents and more than one third of Democrats—oppose taxpayer funding of abortion.”
Other pro-life policies implemented under the Trump Administration to date include the president signing laws empowering states to defund Planned Parenthood, expanding religious liberty and conscience protections, defunding the United Nations Population Fund, and eliminating most U.S. tax dollars from funding abortion internationally.