Biden admin. asks Supreme Court to drop cases challenging ban on Title X funding of abortion clinics

A welcome sign sits at the base of the steps to the U.S. Supreme Court on December 16, 2019, in Washington, D.C.
A welcome sign sits at the base of the steps to the U.S. Supreme Court on December 16, 2019, in Washington, D.C. | Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The Biden administration has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss litigation over a rule that prohibits federal Title X family planning funds from going to clinics and organizations that provide or promote abortion as a method of family planning. 

Acting Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar submitted a short brief to the high court last Friday requesting that the cases filed against the rule be dismissed since both sides have agreed to end the litigation and bear their own costs.

In 2019, the Trump administration issued a final rule barring Title X funds from going to entities that provide or promote abortion for family planning, prompting multiple lawsuits in response. The rule essential barred Title X funding from going to clinics where abortion is provided.

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Representatives of the American Medical Association and multiple states, who had filed suits against the 2019 rule, also filed a short brief requesting dismissal. 

The decision to end the litigation came in response to a memorandum issued by President Joe Biden in January stating the intention of rolling back the 2019 rule.

The January memo asked the Department of Health and Human Services to review restrictions on funding for abortion providers and other entities that promote abortion.

Biden concluded that the Title X rule put "undue restrictions" on the use of federal funds and put "women’s health at risk by making it harder for women to receive complete medical information."  

"The [law] specifies that Title X funds may not be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning, but places no further abortion-related restrictions on recipients of Title X funds," reads the Biden memo.

Earlier this month, 19 states filed a joint motion to ask the Supreme Court to stop the Biden administration from scrapping the Title X rule, also known as the “Protect Life Rule.” 

“To be sure, some States provide such funding. And many advocates would like to see more public funding. But the broader national consensus against funding elective abortion remains,” stated the joint motion.

“Title X reflects this consensus. Since its 1970 enactment, the law has funded non-abortion family planning. All the while, it has banned the use of Title X funds ‘in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.’”

The short briefs filed by Prelogar and the plaintiffs argued that the 19 states were “not parties to these cases,” and so their joint motion does “not prevent the parties from stipulating to dismissal.”

The Trump-era Title X rule drew strong opposition from Planned Parenthood, which led to the nation’s largest abortion provider exiting the Title X family planning program. 

The Title X program was enacted during the Nixon administration and grants hundreds of millions of dollars each year to health clinics across the nation to provide contraceptives, cancer screenings, STD testing and other health care services to low-income patients.

Before its exit from the program, Planned Parenthood was the largest provider of Title X care in the country. 

Last September, an appeals court upheld a ruling that blocked the Trump administration from enforcing the Title X rule. In February 2020, the Ninth Circuit upheld the Title X rule in a 7-4 decision. 

Last month, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear litigation on the matter and consolidated three cases. 

Leading pro-life advocate Marjorie Dannenfelser was confident that the nation's high court, with a conservative majority, would rule that future administrations have the right to "disentangle Title X taxpayer funding from the abortion industry."

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