Friday, November 1, 2013

National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, Inc. v. Sullivan case brief

National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, Inc. v. Sullivan case brief summary
979 F.2d 227 (D.C. Cir. 1992)

Appellant Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) challenged the order of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, granting appellees, various health associations (associations), injunctive and declaratory relief that enjoined the Secretary from proceeding with the enforcement of new directives without first adhering to the requirements of 5 U.S.C.S. § 553 of the Administrative Procedure Act.

The HHS issued regulations on § 553, without notice and comment, concluding that the statute simply required that a Title X project would not provide abortions as a method of family planning. The associations filed suit challenging the validity of these directives, asserting that the process by which they were adopted did not comply with the notice and comment provisions of the APA and that the new policy embodied in the directives was arbitrary and capricious.

  • The court held that the history unequivocally showed that HHS expressly based the regulations on a particular interpretation of the language and purpose of the statute as outlawing any counseling or referral services dealing with abortions, even by doctors. 
  • It was undisputed that the regulations were intended by HHS to be legislative rules. 
  • The HHS was exercising its congressionally-delegated authority to issue binding regulations to implement the statute. 
  • However, HHS was substantially amending and even repudiating part of its original regulation; thus, the HHS's current rule permitting physicians to counsel on abortion should have proceeded through notice and comment.


The court affirmed the judgment.

Recommended Supplements for Administrative Law Examples & Explanations: Administrative Law, Fourth Edition
Administrative Law and Process: In a Nutshell (Nutshell Series)

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