In the Public Health
Service Act (aka Title X) Congress prohibited Federal funds from being
used for abortions. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued
new 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 (known as the "gag rule").
The regulation did allow for
money to be used to promote abstinence and adoption services.
Pro-choice groups (led by
Rust) sued, arguing that the regulation was an unconstitutional
infringement of the 1st Amendment's right to free speech.
They also argued that it
violated the 4th Amendment by interfering with privacy, and the 5th
Amendment right to have an abortion
established by Roe v. Wade
(410 U.S. 113 (1973)).
The Trial Court found for HHS.
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The US Supreme Court affirmed.
The US Supreme Court found
that Title X was ambiguous with
regards to the use of Federal funds for abortion counseling. Therefore,
the courts should defer to the Administrative Agency to interpret the
That's the Chevron
Doctrine (See Chevron U.S.A.,
Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837
promulgated by the Secretary do not raise the sort of 'grave and
doubtful constitutional questions' that would lead us to assume Congress
did not intend to authorize their issuance."
The Court noted that people
were still free to advocate pro-choice messages all they wanted, they
just couldn't do it within the scope of a project funded by Title X.
This case mostly turned on the
idea of deference to Administrative Agencies, but it did hold that a
denial of Federal funding does not rise to the level of a denial of free
speech under the 1st