The 2019 rule of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) prohibited grant recipients in the federal Title X family planning program from referring for abortions, or being co-located with abortion facilities. The rule was meant to implement the program’s original stated purpose that funds would not be used for abortion as a method of family planning.
Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, withdrew from the program rather than comply with the rule, forfeiting an estimated $60 million in annual Title X funding.
In September, the Fourth Circuit court ruled 8-6 against the rule, in the case of Cochran v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore. The majority ruled that HHS “failed to recognize and address the ethical concerns of literally every major medical organization in the country” by implementing the rule.
In a separate challenge to the Protect Life Rule, the Ninth Circuit court upheld the rule in Feb., 2020.
In November, a group of pro-life obstetricians and gynecologists and a Christian medical association had asked the Supreme Court to take up the case. The group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed the amicus brief on their behalf.
“The Supreme Court has already recognized that the federal government has the authority to prevent Title X funds from being used for abortion,” stated John Bursch, senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy for ADF.
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The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists, which claims 4,000 OB-GYN members and associates, and the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, which claims 20,000 members and 329 chapters in the United States, had petitioned the court to take the case.
The court, Bursch said, needs to “make clear that any administration, including future ones, can enforce a rule like this one if it so chooses, and that the courts can’t interfere with that.”
On Jan. 28, President Biden took the first step toward repealing the Protect Life Rule by instructing HHS to review the rule “and any other regulations governing the Title X program that impose undue restrictions on the use of Federal funds or women's access to complete medical information.”