Federal Judges Stomp on Law Protecting Taxpayers from Forced Abortion Funding

Thomas More Society Represents Susan B. Anthony List In Defending Federal Title X Protect Life  and Stop Forced Abortion Spending Rule

(May 1, 2019 – Chicago) The Thomas More Society, in partnership with the Susan B. Anthony List, has taken up the standard in the battle to uphold the Protect Life Rule, which prohibits illegal government funding of abortion through Title X grants. Thomas More Society, as counsel to amicus Susan B. Anthony List, has filed amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs in five states in response to eight lawsuits filed by Planned Parenthood and others to challenge the Trump administration rule. After federal judges in Washington, Oregon, and California issued injunctions against the rule, representatives of both organizations spoke out against the action.

“Title X has always prohibited the use of its funds by programs where abortion is a method of family planning,” explained Sarah Pitlyk, Thomas More Society Special Counsel. “The recently blocked regulations simply enforced those terms, ensuring that taxpayer funds will only be used for permitted purposes. The Thomas More Society will continue to support the Susan B. Anthony List’s goal of ensuring that taxpayer dollars do not support the abortion industry.”

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The Protect Life Rule, enacted March 4, 2019, would bar programs that provide abortions or abortion referrals from receiving federal family planning money. Although the Title X statute has, since 1970, explicitly prohibited the use of federal family planning funds in “programs where abortion is a method of family planning,” the existing regulatory regime has allowed the use of Title X funds by organizations that refer for and even provide abortions. Formally titled as “Compliance with Statutory Program Integrity Requirements,” the Protect Life Rule was issued by the federal Department of Health and Human Services to better ensure compliance with Title X’s clear statutory terms.

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The new Title X regulations, which were due to take effect on May 3, 2019, were instead enjoined  on April 25, 2019, by Federal Judge Stanley A. Bastian in Washington state, on April 26, 2019 by Federal Judge Edward Chen in California and on April 29, 2019, by Federal Judge Michael J. McShane in Oregon. The first two injunctions apply nationwide despite the fact that similar litigation is proceeding in several other courts throughout the nation. Judge McShane’s Order contradicted his statement from the bench that his forthcoming order would not be national in scope.

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser remarked on the current plethora of lawsuits filed by the abortion lobby against the federal government’s Protect Life Rule: “Once again the abortion lobby has run to the courts to attempt to safeguard their taxpayer-funded slush fund. In issuing the Protect Life Rule, President Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Azar were acting on the will of the American people to disentangle taxpayers from the big abortion industry. Similar regulations have already been upheld by the Supreme Court, and we are confident the Trump administration will prevail.”

In prohibiting publicly-funded programs from promoting abortion, Title X is consistent with a number of federal laws favoring childbirth over abortion. For example, the Hyde Amendment bars the use of Medicaid funds for abortion, and the Coates-Snow and Weldon Amendments provide special protections for health care providers who decline to facilitate or provide abortions. Title X applies the same preference for childbirth over abortion in the context of taxpayer-funded family planning services.

Abortion providers’ own arguments detail the difficulty they would have disentangling abortion from their other services. Thomas More Society and Susan B. Anthony List point out in the amicus briefs they’ve filed that the industry’s arguments only reinforce the need for new regulations to better enforce the separation required by the Title X statute.

Under the Protect Life Rule, abortion centers cannot operate as taxpayer-funded family planning centers. Additionally, Title X locations cannot perform abortions or make abortion referrals. Title X providers are not prohibited from providing neutral, nondirective counseling about abortion and this law does not prevent anyone from obtaining Title X services. It does not reduce family planning funding but directs tax dollars to Title X centers that do not promote or perform abortions.

Briefs of Amicus Curiae have been filed by Thomas More Society attorneys on behalf of the Susan B. Anthony List in federal courts in California, Maine, Maryland, Oregon and Washington state.

About the Thomas More Society

The Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Headquartered in Chicago and Omaha, the Thomas More Society fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. For more information, visit thomasmoresociety.org.

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