Jeb Bush Is Right -- Invoke the Reagan Rule in the Fight Against Planned Parenthood

by David French

Perhaps lost in the three hours of last night’s debate was this Jeb Bush reference to the so-called “Reagan Rule” in the battle to defund Planned Parenthood:

So I defunded Planned Parenthood we created a climate where parental notification took place we were the only state to fund crisis pregnancy centers we were totally focused on this and i would bring that philosophy to Washington D.C. Here is a solution to this. Title Ten of the HAS funding, there was something called the Reagan Rule. It was passed in 1988 and it was defined and the courts approved this that a planned parenthood, you couldn’t separate the money between the actual abortion procedures and there are 330,000 abortions that take place in this clinic and their promotion of it. he interpreted the right way, the courts ruled in his favor and planned parenthood did not get finding during the time until President Clinton came in. When i’m elected president, we’ll restore that interpretation Title Ten and this deal will be finished.

A bit of background — as both Yuval Levin and Ben Domenech have explained — Planned Parenthood gets the vast majority of its federal funding through two programs, Title X and Medicaid. While the majority of Planned Parenthood’s public funding comes through Medicaid and almost certainly can’t be cut off absent act of Congress, a significant minority makes its way to Planned Parenthood through Title X, and the president alone — acting through the executive branch — can choke off those funds easily. In 1988, the Reagan administration HHS promulgated a rule that prohibited Title X projects “from engaging in counseling concerning, referrals for, and activities advocating abortion as a method of family planning, and require[d] such projects to maintain an objective integrity and independence from the prohibited abortion activities by the use of separate facilities, personnel, and accounting records.”

The regulation was directly aimed at Planned Parenthood’s practice of evading Title X’s prohibitions against funding abortions by — as Levin explained — “formally separating its abortion clinics and its other family planning services, even when those are located in the same facility and essentially funded jointly.” The Left called it the abortion “gag rule” and challenged it in court. They lost. This critical pro-life victory was short-lived, however, as the Clinton administration promptly repealed the rule. But what Clinton repealed, a new president can re-impose — without going through the maddening process of dealing with an unfortunately unreliable Congress. Jeb was right to bring up the Reagan Rule, and the other candidates should pledge to begin the rulemaking process to restore it — beginning on day one of their first term.

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