US

In Blow Against Planned Parenthood, Judges Rule to Let Trump Defund Abortion Clinics

By Zachary Stieber

A federal appeals court ruled on June 20 that the Trump administration’s family planning rules can go into action across the nation, granting the administration’s request to life injunctions ordered by courts in Oregon, California, and Washington state.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel of three judges all voted to allow the rules to go into effect even as lawsuits against the administration are underway in multiple court systems. The rules will be put into place by the Health and Human Services (HHS) agency.

“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 in the ruling (pdf), which was published online by CNN.

The judges wrote that Congress enacted Title X in 1970 to create a limited grant program for certain types of pre-pregnancy family planning services. In 1988, HHS regulations were put into place forbidding clinics receiving Title X funds from providing counseling or referrals for abortion as a method of family planning.

President Donald Trump speaks at the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington on Oct. 25, 2018. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Those regulations were suspended several years later by the department but now the Trump administration is seeking to put them back into place, referring to it as the “Final Rule.”

“The Final Rule was a reasonable interpretation of” Title X, the judges wrote. It was supported by the Supreme Court decision in Rust v. Sullivan in 1991 that upheld the 1988 regulations, which were crafted by the administration of President Ronald Reagan.

The department is “likely to prevail on its argument that the district court erred,” the judges added. “The panel held that … the department and the public at large are likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a stay.”

The Department of Justice said that it was pleased to hear about the ruling.

Pro-choice activists, politicians and others associated with Planned Parenthood gather for a news conference and demonstration at City Hall against the Trump administrations title X rule change in New York City on Feb. 25, 2019. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

“We are pleased that the Ninth Circuit has cleared the way for this important executive branch action to take effect while our appeals are pending,” Department of Justice spokeswoman Kelly Laco said in a statement sent to the Hill.

The ruling is a blow to Planned Parenthood clinics that provide abortions, which will be denied federal funding.

The health organization, which has become an aggressive proponent and provider of abortions, said previously that it wouldn’t participate in Title X if the family planning rules are allowed to go into effect.

“The news out of the 9th Circuit this morning is devastating for the millions of people who rely on Title X health centers for cancer screenings, HIV tests, affordable birth control and other critical primary and preventive care,” Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen said in a statement after the ruling was announced.

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An examination/procedure room at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, an abortion clinic, in Jackson, Miss. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

The Trump administration first proposed the cuts to abortion providers using Title X in May 2018. An official told the Epoch Times that the rules don’t necessarily defund Planned Parenthood, as long as the organization is willing to disentangle its other services from abortions.

Title X funds make up roughly 10 percent of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding. The for-profit corporation receives $500 million in taxpayer funds annually. Defunding the rest of the sum requires Congressional approval.

In 2017, Congress passed a measure to allow states to cut funding from Planned Parenthood. A federal funding cut failed by a single vote in the Senate. Republicans had a chance to add the measure to two reconciliation bills but forfeited because Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska opposed defunding.

The administration announced the ban on abortion referrals in February, saying it would take effect in 60 days. It was stayed by lower courts before taking effect until Thursday’s ruling.

Epoch Times reporter Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times