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Invoke The Reagan Rule On Planned Parenthood

Republicans should invoke the Reagan Rule on Planned Parenthood and defund it via Title X.


Yesterday, I wrote on the lack of a plan from Republican leadership concerning Planned Parenthood. But just because Republicans in Washington lack a plan to defund Planned Parenthood does not mean Republicans everywhere need to accept this policy approach. In fact, there is a potential opportunity for an enterprising presidential candidate to draw a line in the sand and make this a position of advantage.

Back in 1988, Ronald Reagan’s HHS announced an expanded interpretation of abortion funding prohibition regarding Title X funds, determining that no organization which encouraged or promoted abortion would receive federal funds. The left denounced this approach as a “gag rule” and a potential First Amendment violation. This led to the case, several years later, of Rust v. Sullivan before the Supreme Court – which ultimately vindicated Reagan’s rule. But the policy was discarded during the Clinton presidency and never fully restored.

Yuval Levin writes on this here:

“The instinct to respond to the tapes by forcing a shutdown over the federal funds that Planned Parenthood clinics can get through Title X and Medicaid is understandable and appropriate. Title X is not supposed to make funds available to abortion providers, but Planned Parenthood gets around the legal prohibition by formally separating its abortion clinics and its other family planning services, even when those are located in the same facility and essentially funded jointly. When states have tried to limit Planned Parenthood’s access to Medicaid funds, meanwhile, the Obama administration has told them they can’t, even though federal law prohibits federal Medicaid dollars from funding abortion. In both cases, federal dollars are being spent in ways that contravene the intent and spirit of the legal prohibitions on federal funding of abortion provision, and the biggest beneficiary by far is Planned Parenthood (which has been for many years, for instance, the largest single recipient of Title X money).”

The point is that by drawing an artificial line between its abortion practices and its abortion promoting practices, Planned Parenthood has been circumventing the intent of the legal funding prohibitions for decades in order to access Title X funds. They have an arm funded by the taxpayers which is in the business of promoting abortion, and then another arm that profits from those abortions (in ways, we are finding, that are much more macabre than we assumed). But the Supreme Court has already vindicated Ronald Reagan’s rule on the matter, meaning that the next president could lawfully adopt the same approach to determining how these funds are distributed and in one act dramatically undercut Planned Parenthood.

The presidential candidates on stage at the Reagan Library tonight should commit, as president, to restoring the Reagan Rule and defunding Planned Parenthood. Candidates who will not commit to doing so indicate a position on the matter that will not use the lawful tools at their disposal, vindicated by the Court, to remove taxpayer funding from an enterprise which profits from the destruction of human life and the sale of human remains. It would say a lot about a candidate who commits to this – and even more about one who says no.