WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to rule on two Trump administration initiatives: one imposes restrictions on a federal health program to restrict access to abortions, and the other denies green cards to immigrants believed to be off and occasionally public benefits such as food stamps.
According to the regular court schedule, the cases will be dealt with in the autumn. But they may be disputed by then, as President Biden has indicated his government is reconsidering both measures.
The abortion referrals case concerns a program known as Title X, which helps poor women pay for birth control, preventive health screenings for breast and cervical cancer, and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
The program, established under a 1970 law, prohibits federal subsidies for use in programs in which abortion is a family planning method. The precise meaning of those words is disputed, and over the years it has been subjected to different interpretations by different administrations.
The Trump administration announced in 2019 that clinics that receive funding under the program will not be able to refer patients for abortions at other facilities. Major medical associations said this "joke rule" violated medical ethics Planned Parenthood withdrew from the program.
Several states, the American Medical Association, and others have filed lawsuits to challenge the measure, and federal courts of appeal San Francisco and Richmond, Va., made contradictory decisions. Such splits often lead to Supreme Court review.
The cases the court wanted to review – Cochran v Baltimore Mayor and City Council No. 20-454 American Medical Association v. Cochran, No. 20-429 and Oregon v Cochran No. 20-539 – could become irrelevant if the Biden administration revises the Trump administration's restrictive regulations.
The Immigration Case, Department of Homeland Security v. New York, No. 20-449, concerns the so-called public tax rule, which aims to discourage some immigrants from using public services.
The Trump administration announced in 2019 that it would review the rule, allowing officials to deny permanent legal status, also known as a green card, to immigrants likely to need public assistance. In the past, only substantial and sustained financial aid or long-term institutionalization counted, and less than 1 percent of applicants were disqualified on public charges.
The government's revised rule broadened the criteria to include "non-cash benefits that provide basic necessities such as housing or food" used over a 12-month period in a 36-month period. Using two types of benefits in one month counts as two months, and so on.
In August, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled against the Trump administration, saying the new program would cool down the participation in public services of eligible people.