by Connor Semelsberger, MPP , Mary Jayne Caum
June 21, 2019
On a recent humid June day in the nation’s capital, the debate over President Donald Trump’s Protect Life Rule governing the Title X Family Planning Program heated up. Led by Chairwoman Diane Degette (D-Colo.), the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing to promote the continued relationship between these family planning funds and the abortion industry. Dr. Diane Foley from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) defended the Protect Life Rule against attacks that this rule change will limit a woman’s ability to receive proper family planning services, by ensuring that doctors can continue to provide non-directive counseling on all healthcare options as the statute lays out.
As a key pro-life issue for the Family Research Council, we submitted a letter to the record outlining specifically how this final rule draws a clear line between family planning funds and the abortion industry without reducing the quality of care for each patient.
Dr. Foley went even further to say that the Protect Life Rule will provide a broader array of family planning services by encouraging innovative approaches for care in rural communities and removing the abortion referral requirement, thus allowing faith-based providers to apply for Title X grants, as outlined in our brief on the Protect Life Rule. Although Dr. Foley continually reminded the subcommittee that the Title X statute specifically states abortion cannot be used as a method of family planning, Democrat Members could only see the issue through the lens of abortion access. Rep. Jan Schakowky (D-Ill.) put it most bluntly when she said, “This is about abortion, this is about trying to limit women from having their full reproductive rights.”
Within 24 hours of the subcommittee hearing on Title X, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit granted HHS’s motion to stay the preliminary injunction, which would allow the Protect Life Rule to go into effect until the lawsuit is resolved. While this Order does not decide the fate of the Protect Life Rule, the Court’s Order was encouraging. Typically, the 9th Circuit has been critical of the Trump administration’s policies. As exemplified by the lower courts granting preliminary injunctions to halt the implementation of the Protect Life Rule, courts will often ignore the law to advance a political agenda.
Surprisingly, the 9th Circuit lifted the nationwide preliminary injunction and insisted that delaying the implementation of the Protect Life Rule would be detrimental to both HHS and the American public. Listening to the concerns expressed by HHS, the Court feared that if the preliminary injunctions remained in place, the law would be violated and taxpayer money would fund abortions. Moreover, the Court concluded that HHS would likely be victorious in this lawsuit.
Additionally, the Court reaffirmed the validity of Rust v. Sullivan (a Supreme Court case which upheld regulations nearly identical to the Protect Life Rule). Furthermore, the Court emphasized that the restrictions on abortion referrals does not violate the non-directive counseling requirement. Although Democrats on Capitol Hill continue to claim the Protect Life Rule violates existing law, the Order from the 9th Circuit states otherwise. Hopefully, this temporary win for the Protect Life Rule will be a sign of what is to come from the ongoing legal battle.
Connor Semelsberger is Legislative Assistant at Family Research Council. Mary Jayne Caum is a Policy intern at Family Research Council.