Brief Fact Summary.
The federal government provided funds for family planning services through Title X. The Department of Health and Human Services issued regulations that prohibited projects receiving these funds from abortion-related activities.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
The government may choose not to subsidize certain speech.
Even though a person has no right to a valuable governmental benefit and even though the government may deny him the benefit for any number of reasons, there are some reasons upon which the government may not rely.View Full Point of Law
The federal government provided funds for family planning services through Title X. Congress prohibited the funds from being “used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.” In 1988, the Department of Health and Human Services issued regulations that prohibited projects receiving these funds from not only providing abortions, but also counseling, advising, or promoting the idea that a woman seek an abortion. Many fund recipients, physicians, and clinics challenged the regulation, arguing that it violated their First Amendment right to free speech.
Do the regulations violate the First Amendment rights of clients and health providers?
No, the regulations do not violate the First Amendment rights of clients and health providers.
The regulations constitute both content- and viewpoint-based suppression of speech and are thus impermissible under the First Amendment. Claims that the new regulations were not content- or viewpoint-based are implausible because the regulations permit discussion of a wide array of reproductive services aside from abortion and also compel anti-abortion counseling.
The regulations promulgated by the Defendant are constitutional because the federal government can constitutionally selectively fund a program to encourage activities it believes to be in the public interest, without at the same time funding an alternate program which seeks to deal with the problem another way. The Title X program is designed not for prenatal care, but to encourage family planning. This is not a case of the government suppressing an idea, but of a prohibition on a project grantee or its employees from engaging in activities outside of its scope.