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Supreme Court To Hear Challenge To Trump-Era Abortion Rules

The U.S. Supreme Court will take up a challenge to Trump-era abortion rules.
Andrew Harnik
The U.S. Supreme Court will take up a challenge to Trump-era abortion rules.

Updated at 2:09 p.m. ET

The U.S. Supreme Court said it will hear a set of cases involving a Trump-era rule on abortion, giving the 6-3 conservative majority its first opportunity to weigh in on the hot-button issue. At the same time, the justices tossed out an appeal brought by former President Donald Trump, who once again was seeking to block the New York district attorney from obtaining his tax and other financial records.

The abortion case involves a 2019 Trump administration rule adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services that barred health clinics from receiving federal family planning funds if they provided referrals for abortions, prompting organizations including Planned Parenthood to withdraw from the Title X program.

Critics —including the American Medical Association and abortion-rights groups — called the order a "gag rule" that would restrict the ability of women to learn where they could obtain abortions and abortion counseling. But supporters of the rule — Republicans and anti-abortion organizations — said it will ensure that federal money isn't used to pay for abortions.

Twenty-one states — including Oregon, California and New York — challenged the 2019 regulation issued by HHS. All of the federal district courts ruled against the Trump administration rule, declaring that it was arbitrary and capricious and interfered with provisions of the Affordable Care Act that bar interference with communications between doctors and patients regarding a full range of treatment options.

The courts of appeal split on the issue, and now the Supreme Court has said it will hear arguments in the case next fall. By then, however, the case could be moot.

The Biden administration is preparing to reverse the policy, but that requires a multistep procedural process that will take time.

In a joint statement Monday, the ACLU, the American Medical Association, Essential Access Health, the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America said they welcomed the court's decision to review the lower court's opinion.

"We remain committed to securing a swift outcome, whether from the court or the Biden administration, that will protect Title X patients, physicians, providers, and the health of the nation from further irreparable harm imposed by the current rule," they said in the statement.

Trump's financial records

In a separate, long-awaited case, the court declined former President Trump's request to further delay the enforcement of a subpoena from the Manhattan district attorney for Trump's financial records. The one-sentence unsigned order paves the way for a New York grand jury to obtain the records and review them.

The case is from Novemberwhen Trump's private lawyers asked the high court to block New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.'s efforts to get eight years of Trump's tax records. A New York grand jury issued a subpoena directed not to the president personally, but to an accounting firm that has long dealt with his personal finances, Mazars USA.

Trump's lawyers had argued that a president is immune from investigation while in office. But that argument was dismissed by a federal judge and a panel of the Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. Now that Trump is no longer in office, the New York grand jury can obtain the records.

Vance is investigating alleged hush-money payments made to two women during the 2016 presidential campaign. Adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal both said they had affairs with Trump — allegations the president has denied. The New York prosecutor says the president's tax records could shed light on whether Trump or his employees falsified business records to hide the alleged payments.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.
Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.