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Supreme Court to hear abor­tion case

Im­mi­gra­tion, abor­tion among cases on docket

- John Fritze Con­tribut­ing: Mau­reen Groppe U.S. News · US Politics · Discrimination · Politics · Social Issues · Society · Human Rights · U.S. Supreme Court · Donald Trump · Washington · Democratic Party (United States) · United States of America · Joe Biden · Kaiser Family Foundation · Republican Party (United States) · Brett Kavanaugh · Amy Coney Barrett · Virginia · U.S. Court of Appeals · Maryland · California · Abortion Debate · Immigration · Planned Parenthood · International Planned Parenthood Federation · Roe v. Wade (film) · Neil Gorsuch · Susan B. Anthony

The high court on Mon­day took up a se­ries of cases chal­leng­ing fed­eral re­stric­tions cre­ated dur­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s term, in­clud­ing a hotly con­tested ef­fort to cut fund­ing to med­i­cal cen­ters that give abor­tion re­fer­rals and a rule de­signed to limit le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. The jus­tices could de­cide the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of such rules for the fu­ture.

WASH­ING­TON – The Supreme Court on Mon­day took up a se­ries of cases chal­leng­ing fed­eral reg­u­la­tions cre­ated dur­ing former Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­clud­ing a hotly con­tested ef­fort to cut fund­ing to med­i­cal cen­ters that re­fer pa­tients for abor­tions and a rule de­signed to limit le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

De­scribed by crit­ics as a “gag rule,” the 2019 abor­tion re­fer­ral pro­vi­sion drew con­dem­na­tion from Democrats at the time and praise from anti-abor­tion groups that saw the move as a way to re­duce fund­ing for Planned Par­ent­hood and sim­i­lar en­ti­ties. Fed­eral ap­peals courts have been split on the rule’s con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity.

Sup­port­ers say the rule will en­sure fed­eral money isn’t used for abor­tions, while op­po­nents say it would re­strict the abil­ity of women to ob­tain abor­tion coun­sel­ing. The de­ci­sion to take the case may give the new 6-3 con­ser­va­tive ma­jor­ity on the high court its first op­por­tu­nity to wade into the abor­tion de­bate.

The Trump-era rule “is de­signed to tar­get abor­tion providers to score po­lit­i­cal points,” said Alexis McGill John­son, pres­i­dent of Planned Par­ent­hood Fed­er­a­tion of Amer­ica. “The gag rule’s harm is felt most by those who have al­ways faced sys­temic bar­ri­ers to health care.”

The Supreme Court also an­nounced Mon­day that it will take up a case about an­other Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion reg­u­la­tion that al­lows fed­eral of­fi­cials to deny green cards and visas to im­mi­grants if they be­lieve the re­cip­i­ents will re­ceive pub­lic ben­e­fits such as food stamps, Med­i­caid or hous­ing vouch­ers.

Op­po­nents said the reg­u­la­tion amounted to a wealth test for new im­mi­grants.

The “pub­lic charge” rule was one of sev­eral ef­forts by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­duce le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. Of­fi­cials at the time said the rule was in­tended to en­sure that those ap­proved for le­gal res­i­dency sup­port them­selves. A fed­eral ap­peals court ruled against the Trump im­mi­gra­tion reg­u­la­tion in De­cem­ber, dis­miss­ing that ar­gu­ment.

Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den al­ready has be­gun to un­wind both Trump poli­cies, but he won’t be able to move quickly on ei­ther be­cause they were im­ple­mented through a depart­ment-level rule­mak­ing process rather than with an ex­ec­u­tive or­der that could be re­scinded with a stroke of the pres­i­dent’s pen. The court also could de­cide the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of the rules should a fu­ture pres­i­dent try to im­ple­ment them again.

Trump ef­fec­tively blocked clin­ics from re­ceiv­ing fed­eral grants through the Ti­tle X pro­gram if they of­fered abor­tion ser­vices with other funds. Cre­ated in 1970, the pro­gram of­fers more than $250 mil­lion in an­nual fed­eral fund­ing for health ser­vices for low-in­come fam­i­lies and the unin­sured. The money can­not be used to pay for abor­tion.

Trump stiff­ened the rules of the pro­gram by also bar­ring re­fer­rals for abor­tion ser­vices. Since those changes, about one-quar­ter of clin­ics and other providers that had re­ceived fed­eral grants to help the unin­sured or low-in­come pa­tients no longer par­tic­i­pate, ac­cord­ing to the non­par­ti­san Kaiser Fam­ily Foun­da­tion. Ad­vo­cates say that has re­duced women’s ac­cess to con­tra­cep­tion, can­cer screen­ings and pre­ven­tive care.

Con­ser­va­tives have for gen­er­a­tions pushed Repub­li­can pres­i­dents to se­lect Supreme Court jus­tices who would over­turn – or at least chip away at – the land­mark 1973 Roe v. Wade de­ci­sion that es­tab­lished a con­sti­tu­tional right to abor­tion. Trump’s three nom­i­nees – As­so­ciate Jus­tices Neil Gor­such, Brett Ka­vanaugh and Amy Coney Bar­rett – have given the court its most con­ser­va­tive split since the 1930s.

The Vir­ginia-based U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the 4th Cir­cuit re­cently blocked the rule from tak­ing ef­fect in Mary­land. But the Cal­i­for­nia-based 9th Cir­cuit up­held it.

Su­san B. An­thony List pres­i­dent Mar­jorie Dan­nen­felser said the an­tiabor­tion group is con­fi­dent the Supreme Court will up­hold the rule, which she said would give fu­ture pres­i­den­tial ad­min­is­tra­tions the right to “dis­en­tan­gle” tax­payer fund­ing from abor­tions.

“Abor­tion is not ‘fam­ily plan­ning,’ ” Dan­nen­felser said in a state­ment in which she pre­dicted that the high court would stop “the fun­nel­ing of Ti­tle X tax­payer dol­lars to the abor­tion in­dus­try.”

The cases about both Trump-era rules won’t be ar­gued be­fore the court un­til the fall.

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