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Biden administration, challengers ask court to dismiss litigation over abortion-referral “gag rule”

Yet another dispute is likely to disappear from the court’s docket after a change in position by the Biden administration. Acting Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar and lawyers for state and local governments and non-profit groups on Friday night asked the court to dismiss a trio of cases challenging regulations issued by the Trump administration in 2019 that barred clinics that receive federal family-planning funds from providing abortion referrals – the so-called “gag rule.”

The three cases – American Medical Association v. Cochran, Cochran v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore and Oregon v. Cochran – came to the Supreme Court last fall, after one federal appeals court upheld the rule against two challenges and another one struck it down. The justices agreed to weigh in last month, but by then the Biden administration had already ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to consider rescinding the 2019 rules.

In two short filings on Friday night, Prelogar and lawyers for the challengers asked the court to dismiss the cases pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 46.1, which instructs the clerk of the Supreme Court to dismiss cases – without needing the justices’ permission – when all sides agree. The motions noted that a different group of states and a group of anti-abortion medical associations have asked to enter the case in order to defend the rules, but Prelogar and the challengers said that those requests do not prevent them from agreeing to dismiss the case under Rule 46.1.

Friday’s request is the latest in a series of changes to the Supreme Court’s docket as a result of shifts in position by the Biden administration. On Thursday the Supreme Court called off an oral argument, scheduled for late March, on a controversial Medicaid work requirement; the court has also recently dismissed pending cases or canceled oral arguments involving Trump-era policies on green-card applicants, so-called “sanctuary cities,” the “remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers, and funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

This article was first published at Howe on the Court.

Recommended Citation: Amy Howe, Biden administration, challengers ask court to dismiss litigation over abortion-referral “gag rule”, SCOTUSblog (Mar. 13, 2021, 1:06 PM),