States challenge Biden administration on abortion

WASHINGTON (BP) – A dozen states are challenging the Biden administration’s funding of organizations that perform or promote abortions in one front in an ongoing policy struggle.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced Oct. 25 the filing of a federal lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for its new rule that restored Title X family planning funds to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

Joining Ohio in the suit are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia.

“Federal taxpayer dollars should never be used to pay for abortion, and Title X funding should not be used to refer patients for abortion,” said Chelsea Sobolik, director of public policy for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “Abortion is not, and must not, be treated like health care, because it ends the lives of innocent pre-born babies.”

Meanwhile, an increasing number of states are acting to approve safety regulations regarding the use of abortion drugs. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in April it would not enforce during the COVID-19 pandemic the requirement that a woman must appear in person to receive mifepristone, the first drug in a two-step process known as medical or chemical abortion.

The multi-front effort by states to protect women and unborn children, as well as the consciences of taxpayers, in the face of Biden administration directives comes as battles over federal abortion policy take place in the judicial and legislative branches:

  • The Supreme Court is being urged by the ERLC, other pro-life organizations and Mississippi to reverse its decisions in support of legalized abortion in a case involving that state’s ban on abortion after more than 15 weeks’ gestation. The justices will hear oral arguments in that case Dec. 1. Before then, the high court will hear oral arguments Nov. 1 on whether the Biden administration and abortion providers can challenge a Texas law that prohibits abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
  • In Congress, Democrats are seeking to exclude from a massive budget reconciliation bill the long-standing Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funds in Medicaid and other programs from paying for abortions, and other pro-life protections.

The Ohio-led suit against HHS challenges a regulation issued in early October that rescinded the Trump administration’s 2019 Protect Life Rule, which banned the use of Title X money “to perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning.” The Protect Life Rule required “clear financial and physical separation” between Title X programs and non-Title X programs in which abortion is promoted as a method of family planning.

“HHS should reinstate guardrails to ensure that federally funded family-planning centers are physically and financially separate from abortion centers and abstain from referring patients to abortion providers,” Sobolik said.

When the suit was filed, Yost said in a written release, “You can’t ‘follow the money’ when all the money is dumped into one pot and mixed together. 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.”

The news release from Yost’s office cited the ban on funding for abortion as family planning in the 1970 law that established the Title X program, which serves about four million Americans, particularly those of low income.

Biden had instructed HHS in January to consider immediately whether to restore Title X eligibility to abortion providers, and the department issued a proposed rule in April to do just that before finalizing it nearly six months later. After the proposed regulation was announced, Yost and attorneys general from 20 other states urged HHS in a May letter not to overturn the Protect Life Rule.

After Trump’s HHS finalized the Protect Life Rule in 2019, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) – the country’s leading abortion provider – announced about six months later it would not abide by its requirements. The decision resulted in Planned Parenthood forfeiting $50 to $60 million a year in order to conduct business as usual.

Seven states – Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas – have enacted laws in 2021 to regulate the dispensing of medical/chemical abortion drugs, according to the Susan B. Anthony List. The FDA’s change to a Trump-era policy in April permitted abortion drugs to be dispensed through the mail or through a telemedicine appointment with a doctor. At least eight states are expected to approve similar laws in their next legislative sessions, the pro-life organization reported.

In September, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a measure that reduces the time period in which doctors can provide abortion drugs to women from 10 weeks to seven weeks into pregnancy. It also bans the delivery of such drugs by mail.

In the two-part process for a medical/chemical abortion, mifepristone, often known as RU 486 and authorized by the FDA under President Clinton in 2000, causes the lining of the uterus to release the embryonic child, resulting in his or her death. Misoprostol, a second drug taken later, causes the uterus to contract, expelling the body.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) – a pro-life, research organization – has reported that multiple studies show “complications are four times more frequent in chemical than surgical abortions.” It also said the absence of FDA oversight of such procedures leads to a “lack of reporting adverse effects” if they are not fatal, though CLI said more than 20 deaths of women have been reported. With medical/chemical abortions increasing, the elimination of FDA guidelines will “put more women in danger,” according to CLI.

This article was written by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. It was published on

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