Since taking office, President Trump has appoint 21 federal judges to the federal bench — all of whom have a strongly anti-abortion stance. After Brett Kavanaugh joined the Supreme Court, however, most of these anti-abortion judges were able to use their bench positions to exert tremendous influence over the country’s two largest abortion providers, Planned Parenthood and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Planned Parenthood lost three of its major legal fronts this year. It saw a lawsuit filed by Kansas, a state heavily dependent on federal abortion funds to pay for health services for low-income women, all but end in an embarrassing defeat. On October 23, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas left the appeals court that was handling the case. In the past, the Kansas court system chose not to hear cases involving state funding for abortion providers. The state did, however, move forward with the lawsuit.
By December, the court had dismissed the case. “Both parties remain in court merely waiting for the judge to decide what, if anything, should happen next,” The New York Times reported.
A federal court in Pennsylvania also dismissed a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood. The U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania declared that the group’s business model for marketing contraceptive kits violated federal law — and dismissed the case.
The Philadelphia court determined that the kits sold by Planned Parenthood “do not transmit sex education, change behavior, or advance any other interest in which federal law protects.” In its ruling, the court said the group did not distribute condoms to youth.
Finally, in late October, a federal appeals court in Denver, Colorado, lifted an injunction blocking a Nebraska anti-abortion law from going into effect. It reinstated an administrative rule that abortion providers must do additional training before performing procedures that are covered by Medicaid, the largest federal funding program for reproductive health care.
This ruling marked a major victory for Republican legislators, who have sought to withhold or reduce funding for abortion providers through the Medicaid program for the last 25 years.
President Trump has heavily influenced Republican lawmakers in taking this approach. The conservative news website The Daily Caller reported last month that Missouri Rep. Gene Sinders, an anti-abortion Republican, asked then-Gov. Eric Greitens, a former GOP presidential nominee, to inform his colleagues of what would happen if the Democrats were to win the majority in the House of Representatives. Greitens responded that he could not instruct his colleagues but that they “shouldn’t be the ones to stand in the way.”
This year, Republicans in Congress took similar action when they attempted to further restrict access to abortions. The House passed a bill that would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy — and then an even more restrictive bill that prevents abortions anywhere in the country once a fetal heartbeat is heard.
Sen. Ted Cruz, an ardent abortion foe, was so pleased with Trump’s choices to appoint judges to the federal bench that he made a direct appeal to him to nominate a justice in his favor. “Mr. President, the president clearly has strong judgment when it comes to nominees,” Cruz told Trump when the latter called for his third Supreme Court nominee, suggesting that Trump has a strong selection for a justice in his second term.