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Biden administration asks Supreme Court to toss out abortion funding case

Supreme_Court_dark_Rena_Schild_Shutterstock.jpg U.S. Supreme Court Credit: Rena Schild/Shutterstock

The Biden administration is asking the Supreme Court to throw out a challenge to restrictions on federal funding of pro-abortion groups, signaling it intends to roll back the restrictions.

In 2019, the Trump administration issued the Title X Protect Life Rule, clarifying that recipients of Title X family planning grants could not refer for abortions and could not be co-located with abortion facilities. Rather than comply with the rule, Planned Parenthood announced its withdrawal from the program later that year, forfeiting an estimated $60 million in annual Title X funding.

The Baltimore mayor and city council, as well as a number of states and pro-abortion groups, challenged the rule in court. While the Fourth Circuit court in September ruled 8-6 against the rule, the Ninth Circuit court upheld the rule in Feb., 2020, in a separate challenge.

In February, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case which is currently scheduled to be argued in the fall of 2021.

The Biden administration and other groups that challenged the rule in court are now asking the court to throw the case out as they are now in agreement, SCOTUSBlog reported on Saturday.

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In his Jan. 28 executive order, President Biden instructed the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to review the rule, the first administrative step toward reversing it. In that same order, Biden also allowed for U.S. global health assistance to go to international pro-abortion groups.

Meanwhile, pro-life groups represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) are seeking to intervene at the Supreme Court in defense of the rule. Currently, the court case is between the Biden HHS and a collection of pro-abortion groups and state and local governments that challenged the Trump HHS rule.

The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists, the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, and the Catholic Medical Association filed a motion last week to intervene in the case, saying that they would be directly affected by a rule change.

“It is a near certainty that the Administration will decline to defend the Rules,” the groups stated.

Part of the Trump administration’s final rule on the Title X program was removing requirements that grant recipients provider abortion counseling and referrals. Under the new rules, clinics can now provide “nondirective” counseling on abortion if they wish, but the counseling is optional. If the rule were to be struck down, the pro-life groups argue that Title X grant recipients would once again be forced to provide abortion counseling and referrals.

The pro-life groups said that some of their members work at clinics receiving Title X funding.

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The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists claims 4,000 OB-GYN members and associates, while the Christian Medical and Dental Associations claims 20,000 members and 329 chapters in the United States. The Catholic Medical Association includes more than 2,400 Catholic physicians, nurses, and physician assistants as members.

They stated their “strong interest in ensuring that Congress’s refusal to fund abortion counseling and advocacy through the public fisc is respected, and in defending efforts to implement Congress’s conscience protections, which make pro-life healthcare organizations and providers’ participation in the Title X program possible.”

Title X is a federal family planning program established in 1970. Although it has provided family planning and contraceptives to low-income families, the law that established the program said that no funds could be used for abortion as a method of family planning.

A Clinton-era rule, however, required Title X grantees to provide abortion counseling and referrals. The Trump administration in 2019 walked that rule back, making the non-directive abortion counseling optional and prohibiting abortion referrals.

One California-based pro-life network that provides prenatal care but no contraceptives, Obria Group, received a Title X grant in 2019.

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