By Micaiah Bilger
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals plans to hear a challenge Thursday to a Biden administration rule that forces taxpayers to fund abortion groups, including the billion-dollar abortion chain Planned Parenthood.
Bloomberg Law reports the appeals court will consider a request from 12 states for a preliminary injunction to block the rule regarding Title X, a taxpayer-funded family planning program.
Title X funds are not supposed to be used for abortions. The program provides family planning services to low-income individuals, and the law states that Title X grants may not be used “where abortion is a method of family planning.”
However, Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the U.S., was one of the largest recipients of Title X grants for years. In 2019, the Trump administration issued a rule ensuring that funding would not be used to support abortions, and Planned Parenthood dropped out of the program.
In 2021, however, the Biden administration issued a new rule that requires Title X recipients to refer for abortions and ends the requirement that abortion facilities separate their abortion practices from their Title X services. Now, Planned Parenthood and other abortion groups are receiving tax dollars through the program again.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost led 12 states in suing the Biden administration last year, with nine additional states supporting the lawsuit. A federal judge refused to block the rule, so the states appealed to the Sixth Circuit, according to Bloomberg.
“You can’t ‘follow the money’ when all the money is dumped into one pot and mixed together,” Yost said in a statement last year. “Federal law prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion — and that law means nothing if the federal money isn’t kept separate. That, frankly, is the real reason behind the rule.”
Carolyn McDonnell, a lawyer with the pro-life organization Americans United for Life, told Bloomberg that the Biden administration rule ignores the law, which prohibits family planning funds from being used to promote abortions. AUL filed an amicus brief in support of the states’ case.
Here’s more from the interview:
The issue is a “huge” one because it implicates conscience rights, AUL’s McDonnell told Bloomberg Law.
Myriad federal laws protect health-care providers’ and taxpayers’ conscience rights by expressly precluding the use of federal money to fund abortions, she said. Additionally, the 2021 rule is plainly contrary to Title X’s own conscience rule, Section 1008, she said.
McDonnell said the Trump rule was a necessary reinterpretation of Title X’s program participation requirements, as many federal conscience protections weren’t in place when the rules were adopted in 2000. This interpretation protects the rights of pro-life taxpayers at the administrative level, she said.
Last year, Yost said the Trump administration rule built up walls to ensure that taxpayer funding was not being used to support abortions. He cited the 1970 Family Planning Services and Population Research Act regarding Title X, which prohibits tax funds being “used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”
In a brief supporting the case, the Montana Attorney General’s Office said the Biden administration’s new rule also infringes on conscience rights by forcing pro-life individuals and entities to refer women for abortions.
Unless the court blocks the rule, patients in rural areas could lose access to vital health care as well. The HHS rule “will limit choice for patients, especially those who live in rural or remote areas, where faith-based and local community organizations would be more likely to apply … if the abortion counseling and referral requirement were lifted,” the brief states.
Joining Ohio in the lawsuit are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia. Some states do not participate in the Title X program.
These same states also warned the Biden administration of their objections to the new rule before HHS implemented it in October 2021.