Supreme Court to decide whether to tackle conflicting court opinions on the “Protect Life Rule”

By Dave Andrusko

On January 8, 2021, the Supreme Court will consider whether to take up conflicting appeals courts’ rulings over the constitutionality of the Trump administration’s “Protect Life Rule.” The rule requires recipients of the Title X family planning money not to co-locate with abortion clinics or refer clients for abortion as a method of family planning. 

On February 24, the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an earlier unanimous decision by a three-judge panel which vacated court decisions in California, Oregon, and Washington that had blocked the rule’s enforcement. 

“Congress has long prohibited the use of Title X funds in programs where abortion is a method of family planning and HHS’s recent rule makes that longstanding prohibition a reality,” Mollie Timmons, a Department of Justice spokesperson, said at the time. “We look forward to continuing to defend this vital rule against all challenges.”

But on September 3, the full 4th U.S. Court of Appeals permanently enjoined the “Protect Life Rule.” On a vote of 8-6, it upheld an April 2020 decision by a three-judge panel that denied the Trump administration’s motion to stay an injunction issued in February by Judge Richard D. Bennett. 

In between, in August, Planned Parenthood utterly predictably opted out of the Title X program rather than accept the limitations which were clearly intended by Congress when it created the program in 1970.

In 2018, when language was first proposed, NRLC said, “National Right to Life strongly supports the efforts of the Trump Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, and members of Congress in their fight to put a stop to taxpayer funding of abortion providers.”

In February 2019, after the finalized Protect Life Rule was announced Archbishop Joseph Naumann, 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.