Abortion Funding Battle Continues 20 Years After Rust v. Sullivan

Opinion   |   Bill Saunders   |   May 23, 2011   |   4:10PM   |   Washington, DC

On May 23, 1991, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in the case Rust v. Sullivan, which upheld federal regulations prohibiting federal funds appropriated under Title X from being used to counsel on behalf of or refer women for an abortion as a method of family planning. Thus, we celebrate its 20th Anniversary this week.

It was a momentous decision, affirming the Court’s earlier decision in Maher v. Roe that a “government may ‘make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion, and … implement that judgment by the allocation of public funds.’”

One of the Court’s strongest holdings was the following:

The Government can, without violating the Constitution, selectively fund a program to encourage certain activities it believes to be in the public interest, without at the same time funding an alternative program which seeks to deal with the problem in another way. In doing so, the Government has not discriminated on the basis of viewpoint; it has merely chosen to fund one activity to the exclusion of the other.

Today, as twenty years ago, a strong majority agrees Congress should not fund abortion.  Yet, there is a “hidden abortion subsidy” that it is time, in accordance with our preference for birth over death, to root out.

Every year, Planned Parenthood—the nation’s largest abortion provider—receives hundreds of millions of tax dollars. Last year, it performed hundreds of thousands of abortions. Yet, Americans  remain strongly opposed to taxpayer-funded abortion.

And so 20 years later, we are in the midst of another funding battle over abortion. The fight this time is to keep federal funding away from organizations committed to abortion.  The hidden subsidy allows them to represent themselves as being concerned about one thing (family planning), while they use federal funds to promote, defend, and evangelize for the forbidden thing: abortion.  AUL and its pro-life allies are fighting tirelessly to de-fund abortion providers. Abortion is not in the public interest; study after study reveals that abortion harms women, and thus harms our society as a whole.

Earlier this month, Indiana enacted a bill to “de-fund” Planned Parenthood (and other abortion providers), prohibiting any agency of the state from contracting with or making grants (state funds or state-administered federal funds) to entities that perform abortions or maintain or operate facilities where abortions are performed.

As expected, Planned Parenthood of Indiana challenged the new law, claiming that it will lose between $1.3 and $2 million in revenue annually, leading to the closure of 13 centers. In a decision denying the abortion providers’ claim that the court should immediately grant a temporary restraining order (TRO), the federal district court in Indiana labeled the “harm” Planned Parenthood claims as “predictions,” which are insufficient to justify the grant of a TRO.  Interestingly the court characterized the potential harm to Planned Parenthood as “a gradual deterioration.”

The deterioration of Planned Parenthood’s empire built upon abortion? One can only hope the court was prescient here.

In the meantime, we applaud the state of Indiana for choosing to encourage childbirth over abortion. And today we celebrate its ability to do so under the Supreme Court’s holding in Rust v. Sullivan.