Doctors petition Supreme Court to allow Title X funds for abortion providers 

Planned Parenthood Credit American Life League Flickr CC BY NC 20 CNA 1 American Life League, Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0.

The American Medical Association on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to review an appeals court decision that upheld a ban on federal family planning funds for abortion providers.

Last year, the Trump administration finalized the “Protect Life Rule,” which bars Title X fund recipients from referring women for abortions, prevents participating groups from co-locating with abortion clinics, and requires financial separation of government-funded programs from those that carry out abortions.

Title X is a federal program created in 1965 that subsidizes family-planning and preventative health services, including contraception, for low-income families. It has been frequently updated and subject to new regulations. Title X does not pay for abortions, but recipients of Title X in the past have included abortion providers and organizations that refer patients for abortion.

As a result of the new rule, Planned Parenthood exited the Title X program during August 2019.

After the finalized Protect Life Rule was announced in February 2019, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, praised the Trump administration for “reaffirming that abortion is not family planning.”

“Abortion ends the lives of families’ most vulnerable members, as well as damaging the spiritual, mental and physical health of mothers,” the archbishop said.

In early Sept. 2020, a Virginia federal court of appeals upheld an earlier injunction against the enforcement of the rule in Maryland. U.S. District Judge Michael McShane had in April 2020 issued a preliminary injunction against the new rule’s ban on taxpayer funding for clinics that refer for abortion.

In contrast, the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco had upheld the rule during Feb. 2020.

The AMA on Oct. 1 criticized the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, and said the conflicting circuit court rulings have led to “unresolved questions of law about an essential federal health care program.”

Planned Parenthood lost about $60 million in federal funding when it exited the program last year, which represents about one-fifth of total Title X funds and approximately 15% of Planned Parenthood’s annual federal funding. Planned Parenthood still receives roughly $500 million annually in Medicaid reimbursement.

The AMA argued that the Protect Life Rule has led to worse care for patients due to the number of providers that have exited the program, and that it interferes with the doctor-patient relationship.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has promised to rescind the Protect Life Rule and resume Title X funding eligibility for abortion providers. He also has reversed his support for the Hyde Amendment, a policy barring taxpayer funding of elective abortions, after he faced criticism from abortion supporters—including his future vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris—for supporting the policy.

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