The Trump administration was back in court Monday defending a new Title X rule that defunded the Planned Parenthood abortion chain of about $60 million.
An appeals court panel allowed the rule to go into effect in June, but pro-abortion groups appealed their case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
On Monday, the 11-judge court heard arguments from the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and others about why the rule should be blocked, the AP reports.
Lawyer Ruth Harlow with the ACLU argued that the rule has reduced access to Title X services. Attorneys for the pro-abortion groups also argued that the rule is a kind of “gag order” because it prohibits Title X recipients from referring patients for abortions.
“Further, they said that Health and Human Services offered no real rationale for its decision, and thus violated the law about decision-making by federal agencies,” according to the AP.
On the contrary, the Trump administration has a very clear rationale for the new rule: to stop tax dollars from directly and indirectly funding the killing of unborn babies in abortions.
The Title X rule does not prevent providers from discussing abortion with their patients; it just ensures that the taxpayer-funded program is not being used to promote the killing of unborn babies. It also requires that Planned Parenthood and other groups completely separate their abortion businesses from their Title X services, including separate facilities.
Hashim M. Moopan, a lawyer for HHS, defended the rule as a constitutional restriction on taxpayer funds and abortion, The Oregonian reports.
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Title X recipients “are allowed to provide abortion counseling. The one thing they can’t do is provide a referral. That’s simply not directive,’’ Moopan said.
Harlow, however, brought up that 18 of 90 entities dropped out of Title X as a result of the new rule, creating a gap in services for low-income individuals.
She accused HHS of creating “a solution in search of a problem,” and she argued that there already are “very clear guidelines so financial issues are separate and there’s no funding of abortion” through Title X.
However, HHS did not cut any funding from the program, and Moopan said the department plans to offer supplemental grant applications soon to distribute the unused money to entities that will comply with the rule.
A number of the Ninth Circuit justices seemed skeptical of the pro-abortion groups’ arguments. Modern Health Care reports Justice Milan Smith Jr. referred to a 1991 U.S. Supreme Court decisions that upheld a similar rule.
Harlow argued that the world has changed a lot in the past three decades, and that particular decision should not be considered precedent because of the changes.
As a point of context, Roe v. Wade is nearly five decades old, but she did not argue for the justices to ignore that decision because of its age and new scientific advances.
Smith also seemed skeptical of the argument.
“Aren’t we bound by the Supreme Court by the bigger issues, like First Amendment issues, and the separate facility issue?” he questioned. “Why would we be free to come to a different conclusion here?”
Smith pointed to the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer-funded elective abortions in Medicare. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the provision in 1980.
“Whether you agree with the policy or not, the Hyde Amendment has been in effect for a long time,” Smith said. “I realize the regulation is a little bit different, but the concept is very clear: The Supreme Court says this is OK.”
Here’s more from the report:
Judge Consuelo Callahan asked whether the government might not also suffer irreparable harm if it’s not able to enact policies it chooses, as long as they’re constitutional.
“That’s part of what they call ‘Elections have consequences,’ ” Callahan said. “If it’s constitutional or legal, they can change policies.”
Judge Sandra Segal Ikuta questioned whether the harms claimed by the plaintiffs in the form of high added costs showed that federal money was in fact subsidizing abortions.
It is not clear when the court will rule on the matter.
Title X grants are supposed to help low-income individuals receive birth control, cancer screenings and other health care services. While the tax money cannot be used to pay for abortions, it indirectly funds Planned Parenthood’s vast abortion business.
The abortion chain received about $60 million through the program until it dropped out earlier this year because of the new rule.