Rust v. Sullivan
500 U.S. 173 (1991)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Rust v. Sullivan, 500 U.S. 173 (1990)

Rust v. Sullivan

Nos. 89-1391, 89-1392

Argued Oct. 30, 1990

Decided May 23, 1991

500 U.S. 173

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Section 1008 of the Public Health Service Act specifies that none of the federal funds appropriated under the Act's Title X for family-planning services "shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning." In 1988, respondent Secretary of Health and Human Services issued new regulations that, inter alia, prohibit Title X projects from engaging in counseling concerning, referrals for, and activities advocating abortion as a method of family planning, and require such projects to maintain an objective integrity and independence from the prohibited abortion activities by the use of separate facilities, personnel, and accounting records. Before the regulations could be applied, petitioners -- Title X grantees and doctors who supervise Title X funds -- filed suits, which were consolidated, challenging the regulations' facial validity and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent their implementation. In affirming the District Court's grant of summary judgment to the Secretary, the Court of Appeals held that the regulations were a permissible construction of the statute and consistent with the First and Fifth Amendments.

Held:

1. The regulations are a permissible construction of Title X. Pp. 500 U. S. 183-191.

(a) Because § 1008 is ambiguous, in that it does not speak directly to the issues of abortion counseling, referral, and advocacy, or to "program integrity," the Secretary's construction must be accorded substantial deference as the interpretation of the agency charged with administering the statute, and may not be disturbed as an abuse of discretion if it reflects a plausible construction of the statute's plain language and does not otherwise conflict with Congress' expressed intent. Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resource Defense Council, Inc.,467 U. S. 837, 467 U. S. 842-844. P. 500 U. S. 184.

(b) Title X's broad language plainly allows the abortion counseling, referral, and advocacy regulations. Since the Title neither defines

Page 500 U. S. 174

§ 1008's "method of family planning" phrase nor enumerates what types of medical and counseling services are entitled to funding, it cannot be said that the Secretary's construction of the § 1008 prohibition to require a ban on such activities within Title X projects is impermissible. Moreover, since the legislative history is ambiguous as to Congress' intent on these issues, this Court will defer to the Secretary's expertise. Petitioners' contention, that the regulations are entitled to little or no deference because they reverse the Secretary's longstanding policy permitting nondirective counseling and referral for abortion, is rejected. Because an agency must be given ample latitude to adapt its rules to changing circumstances, a revised interpretation may deserve deference. The Secretary's change of interpretation is amply supported by a "reasoned analysis" indicating that the new regulations are more in keeping with the statute's original intent, are justified by client experience under the prior policy, and accord with a shift in attitude against the "elimination of unborn children by abortion." Pp. 500 U. S. 184-187.

(c) The regulations' "program integrity" requirements are not inconsistent with Title X's plain language. The Secretary's view, that the requirements are necessary to ensure that Title X grantees apply federal funds only to authorized purposes and avoid creating the appearance of governmental support for abortion-related activities, is not unreasonable in light of § 1008's express prohibitory language and is entltled to deference. Petitioners' contention is unpersuasive that the requirements frustrate Congress' intent, clearly expressed in the Act and the legislative history, that Title X programs be an integral part of a broader, comprehensive, health care system that envisions the efficient use of non-Title X funds. The statements relied on are highly generalized and do not directly address the scope of § 1008 and, therefore, cannot form the basis for enjoining the regulations. Indeed, the legislative history demonstrates that Congress intended that Title X funds be kept separate and distinct from abortion-related activities. Moreover, there is no need to invalidate the regulations in order to save the statute from unconstitutionality, since petitioners' constitutional arguments do not carry the day. Pp. 500 U. S. 187-191.

2. The regulations do not violate the First Amendment free speech rights of private Title X fund recipients, their staffs, or their patients by impermissibly imposing viewpoint-discriminatory conditions on Government subsidies. There is no question but that § 1008's prohibition is constitutional, since the Government may make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion, and implement that judgment by the allocation of public funds. Maher v. Roe,432 U. S. 464, 432 U. S. 474. In so doing, the Government has not discriminated on the basis of viewpoint; it has merely chosen to fund one activity to the exclusion of another. Similarly,

Page 500 U. S. 175

in implementing the statutory prohibition by forbidding counseling, referral, and the provision of information regarding abortion as a method of family planning, the regulations simply ensure that appropriated funds are not used for activities, including speech, that are outside the federal program's scope. Arkansas Writers' Project, Inc. v. Ragland,481 U. S. 221, distinguished. Petitioners' view that, if the Government chooses to subsidize one protected right, it must subsidize analogous counterpart rights, has been soundly rejected. See, e.g., Regan v. Taxation With Representation of Wash.,461 U. S. 540. On their face, the regulations cannot be read, as petitioners contend, to bar abortion referral or counseling where a woman's life is placed in imminent peril by her pregnancy, since it does not seem that such counseling could be considered a "method of family planning" under § 1008, and since provisions of the regulations themselves contemplate that a Title X project could engage in otherwise prohibited abortion-related activities in such circumstances. Nor can the regulations' restrictions on the subsidization of abortion-related speech be held to unconstitutionally condition the receipt of a benefit, Title X funding, on the relinquishment of a constitutional right, the right to engage in abortion advocacy and counseling. The regulations do not force the Title X grantee, or its employees, to give up abortion-related speech; they merely require that such activities be kept separate and distinct from the activities of the Title X project. FCC v. League of Women Voters of Cal.,468 U. S. 364, 468 U. S. 400; Regan, supra, 461 U.S. at 461 U. S. 546, distinguished. Although it could be argued that the traditional doctor-patient relationship should enjoy First Amendment protection from Government regulation, even when subsidized by the Government, cf., e.g., United States v. Kokinda,497 U. S. 720, 497 U. S. 726, that question need not be resolved here, since the Title X program regulations do not significantly impinge on the doctor-patient relationship. Pp. 500 U. S. 192-200.

3. The regulations do not violate a woman's Fifth Amendment right to choose whether to terminate her pregnancy. The Government has no constitutional duty to subsidize an activity merely because it is constitutionally protected, and may validly choose to allocate public funds for medical services relating to childbirth but not to abortion. Webster v. Reproductive Health Services,492 U. S. 490, 492 U. S. 510. That allocation places no governmental obstacle in the path of a woman wishing to terminate her pregnancy, and leaves her with the same choices as if the Government had chosen not to fund family planning services at all. See, e.g., Harris v. McRae,448 U. S. 297, 448 U. S. 315, 448 U. S. 317; Webster, supra,492 U. S. 509. Nor do the regulations place restrictions on the patient/doctor dialogue which violate a woman's right to make an informed and voluntary choice under Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, Inc., 462 U.S.

Page 500 U. S. 176

416, and Thornburg v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists,476 U. S. 747. Unlike the laws invalidated in those cases, which required all doctors to provide all pregnant patients contemplating abortion with specific antiabortion information, here, a doctor's ability to provide, and a woman's right to receive, abortion-related information remains unfettered outside the context of the Title X project. The fact that most Title X clients may be effectively precluded by indigency from seeing a health care provider for abortion-related services does not affect the outcome here, since the financial constraints on such a woman's ability to enjoy the full range of constitutionally protected freedom of choice are the product not of governmental restrictions, but of her indigency. McRae, supra, 448 U.S. at 448 U. S. 316. Pp. 500 U. S. 201-203.

889 F.2d 401 (C.A.2 1989), affirmed.

REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, KENNEDY, SCALIA, and SOUTER, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined; in Part I of which O'CONNOR, J., joined; and in Parts II and III of which STEVENS, J., joined, post, p. 500 U. S. 203. STEVENS, J., post, p. 500 U. S. 220, and O'CONNOR, J., filed dissenting opinions, post, p. 500 U. S. 223.

Page 500 U. S. 177

CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

These cases concern a facial challenge to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations which limit

Page 500 U. S. 178

the ability of Title X fund recipients to engage in abortion-related activities. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the regulations, finding them to be a permissible construction of the statute, as well as consistent with the First and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution. We granted certiorari to resolve a split among the Courts of Appeals. [Footnote 1] We affirm.

I

A

In 1970, Congress enacted Title X of the Public Health Service Act (Act), 84 stat. 1506, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 300-300a6, which provides federal funding for family planning services. The Act authorizes the Secretary to

"make grants to and enter into contracts with public or nonprofit private entities to assist in the establishment and operation of voluntary family planning projects which shall offer a broad range of acceptable and effective family

Page 500 U. S. 179

planning methods and services."

42 U.S.C. § 300(a). Grants and contracts under Title X must "be made in accordance with such regulations as the Secretary may promulgate." 42 U.S.C. § 300a-4. Section 1008 of the Act, however, provides that "[n]one of the funds appropriated under this subchapter shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning." 42 U.S.C. § 300a-6. That restriction was intended to ensure that Title X funds would

"be used only to support preventive family planning services, population research, infertility services, and other related medical, informational, and educational activities."

H.R. Conf.Rep. No. 91-1667, p. 8 (1970), U.S.Code Cong. & Admin.News 1970, pp. 5068, 5081-82.

In 1988, the Secretary promulgated new regulations designed to provide

"'clear and operational guidance' to grantees about how to preserve the distinction between Title X programs and abortion as a method of family planning."

53 Fed.Reg. 29232924 (1988). The regulations clarify, through the definition of the term "family planning," that Congress intended Title X funds "to be used only to support preventive family planning services." H.R.Conf. Rep. No. 91-1667, p. 8, U.S.Code Cong. & Admin.News 1970, p. 5081 (emphasis added). Accordingly, Title X services are limited to "preconceptual counseling, education, and general reproductive health care," and expressly exclude "pregnancy care (including obstetric or prenatal care)." 42 CFR § 59.2 (1989). [Footnote 2] The regulations

"focus the emphasis of the Title X program on its traditional mission: the provision of preventive family planning services specifically designed to enable individuals to determine the number and spacing of their children, while clarifying that pregnant women must be referred to appropriate prenatal care services."

53 Fed.Reg. 2925 (1988).

The regulations attach three principal conditions on the grant of federal funds for Title X projects. First, the regulations specify that a

"Title X project may not provide counseling concerning the use of abortion as a method of family planning or provide referral for abortion as a method of family planning."

42 CFR 59.8(a)(1) (1989). Because Title X is limited to preconceptional services, the program does not furnish services related to childbirth. Only in the context of a referral out of the Title X program is a pregnant woman given transitional information. § 59.8(a)(2). Title X

Page 500 U. S. 180

projects must refer every pregnant client

"for appropriate prenatal and/or social services by furnishing a list of available providers that promote the welfare of the mother and the unborn child."

Ibid. The list may not be used indirectly to encourage or promote abortion,

"such as by weighing the list of referrals in favor of health care providers which perform abortions, by including on the list of referral providers health care providers whose principal business is the provision of abortions, by excluding available providers who do not provide abortions, or by 'steering' clients to providers who offer abortion as a method of family planning."

§ 59.8(a)(3). The Title X project is expressly prohibited from referring a pregnant woman to an abortion provider, even upon specific request. One permissible response to such an inquiry is that

"the project does not consider abortion an appropriate method of family planning, and therefore does not counsel or refer for abortion."

§ 59.8(b)(5).

Second, the regulations broadly prohibit a Title X project from engaging in activities that "encourage, promote or advocate abortion as a method of family planning." § 59.10(a). Forbidden activities include lobbying for legislation that would increase the availability of abortion as a method of family planning, developing or disseminating materials advocating abortion as a method of family planning, providing speakers to promote abortion as a method of family planning, using legal action to make abortion available in any way as a method of family planning, and paying dues to any group that advocates abortion as a method of family planning as a substantial part of its activities. Ibid.

B

Third, the regulations require that Title X projects be organized so that they are "physically and financially separate" from prohibited abortion activities. § 59.9. To be deemed physically and financially separate,

"a Title X project must have an objective integrity and independence from prohibited activities. Mere bookkeeping separation of Title X funds from other monies is not sufficient."

Ibid. The regulations

Page 500 U. S. 181

provide a list of nonexclusive factors for the Secretary to consider in conducting a case-by-case determination of objective integrity and independence, such as the existence of separate accounting records and separate personnel, and the degree of physical separation of the project from facilities for prohibited activities. Ibid.

Petitioners are Title X grantees and doctors who supervise Title X funds suing on behalf of themselves and their patients. Respondent is the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. After the regulations had been promulgated, but before they had been applied, petitioners filed two separate actions, later consolidated, challenging the facial validity of the regulations and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent implementation of the regulations. Petitioners challenged the regulations on the grounds that they were not authorized by Title X and that they violate the First and Fifth Amendment rights of Title X clients and the First Amendment rights of Title X health providers. After initially granting the petitioners a preliminary injunction, the District Court rejected petitioners' statutory and constitutional challenges to the regulations and granted summary judgment in favor of the Secretary. New York v. Bowen, 690 F.Supp. 1261 (SDNY 1988).

A panel of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed. 889 F.2d 401 (1989). Applying this Court's decision in Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.,467 U. S. 837, 467 U. S. 842-843 (1984), the Court of Appeals determined that the regulations were a permissible construction of the statute that legitimately effectuated Congressional intent. The court rejected as "highly strained," petitioners' contention that the plain language of § 1008 forbids Title X projects only from performing abortions. The court reasoned that

"it would be wholly anomalous to read Section 1008 to mean that a program that merely counsels, but does not perform, abortions does not include abortion as a 'method of family planning.'"

889 F.2d at 407. "[T]he natural

Page 500 U. S. 182

construction of . . . the term method of family planning' includes counseling concerning abortion." Ibid. The court found this construction consistent with the legislative history, and observed that

"[a]ppellants' contrary view of the legislative history is based entirely on highly generalized statements about the expansive scope of the family planning services"

that "do not specifically mention counseling concerning abortion as an intended service of Title X projects" and that "surely cannot be read to trump a section of the statute that specifically excludes it." Id. at 407-408.

Turning to petitioners' constitutional challenges to the regulations, the Court of Appeals rejected petitioners' Fifth Amendment challenge. It held that the regulations do not impermissibly burden a woman's right to an abortion, because the

"government may validly choose to favor childbirth over abortion and to implement that choice by funding medical services relating to childbirth but not those relating to abortion."

Id. at 410. Finding that the prohibition on the performance of abortions upheld by the Court in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services,492 U. S. 490 (1989), was "substantially greater in impact than the regulations challenged in the instant matter," 889 F.2d at 411, the court concluded that the regulations "create[d] no affirmative legal barriers to access to abortion." Ibid., citing Webster v. Reproductive Health Services.

The court likewise found that the

"Secretary's implementation of Congress's decision not to fund abortion counseling, referral or advocacy also does not, under applicable Supreme Court precedent, constitute a facial violation of the First Amendment rights of health care providers or of women."

889 F.2d at 412. The court explained that, under Regan v. Taxation With Representation of Wash.,461 U. S. 540 (1983), the government has no obligation to subsidize even the exercise of fundamental rights, including "speech rights." The court also held that the regulations do not violate the First Amendment by "condition[ing] receipt of a benefit on the

Page 500 U. S. 183

relinquishment of constitutional rights," because Title X grantees and their employees "remain free to say whatever they wish about abortion outside the Title X project." 889 F.2d at 412. Finally, the court rejected petitioners' contention that the regulations "facially discriminate on the basis of the viewpoint of the speech involved." Id. at 414.

II

We begin by pointing out the posture of the cases before us. Petitioners are challenging the facial validity of the regulations. Thus, we are concerned only with the question whether, on their face, the regulations are both authorized by the Act, and can be construed in such a manner that they can be applied to a set of individuals without infringing upon constitutionally protected rights. Petitioners face a heavy burden in seeking to have the regulations invalidated as facially unconstitutional.

"A facial challenge to a legislative Act is, of course, the most difficult challenge to mount successfully, since the challenger must establish that no set of circumstances exists under which the Act would be valid. The fact that [the regulations] might operate unconstitutionally under some conceivable set of circumstances is insufficient to render [them] wholly invalid."

United States v. Salerno,481 U. S. 739, 481 U. S. 745 (1987).

We turn first to petitioners' contention that the regulations exceed the Secretary's authority under Title X, and are arbitrary and capricious. We begin with an examination of the regulations concerning abortion counseling, referral, and advocacy, which every Court of Appeals has found to be authorized by the statute, and then turn to the "program integrity requirement," with respect to which the courts below have adopted conflicting positions. We then address petitioner's claim that the regulations must be struck down because they raise a substantial constitutional question.

Page 500 U. S. 184

A

We need not dwell on the plain language of the statute, because we agree with every court to have addressed the issue that the language is ambiguous. The language of § 1008 -- that "[n]one of the funds appropriated under this subchapter shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning" -- does not speak directly to the issues of counseling, referral, advocacy, or program integrity. If a statute is

"silent or ambiguous with respect to the specific issue, the question for the court is whether the agency's answer is based on a permissible construction of the statute."

Chevron, 467 U.S. at 467 U. S. 842-843.

The Secretary's construction of Title X may not be disturbed as an abuse of discretion if it reflects a plausible construction of the plain language of the statute and does not otherwise conflict with Congress' expressed intent. Ibid. In determining whether a construction is permissible,

"[t]he court need not conclude that the agency construction was the only one it could permissibly have adopted . . . or even the reading the court would have reached if the question initially had arisen in a judicial proceeding."

Id. at 467 U. S. 843, n. 11. Rather, substantial deference is accorded to the interpretation of the authorizing statute by the agency authorized with administering it. Id. at 467 U. S. 844.

The broad language of Title X plainly allows the Secretary's construction of the statute. By its own terms, § 1008 prohibits the use of Title X funds "in programs where abortion is a method of family planning." Title X does not define the term "method of family planning," nor does it enumerate what types of medical and counseling services are entitled to Title X funding. Based on the broad directives provided by Congress in Title X in general and § 1008 in particular, we are unable to say that the Secretary's construction of the prohibition in § 1008 to require a ban on counseling, referral, and advocacy within the Title X project is impermissible.

Page 500 U. S. 185

The District Courts and Courts of Appeals that have examined the legislative history have all found, at least with regard to the Act's counseling, referral, and advocacy provisions, that the legislative history is ambiguous with respect to Congress' intent in enacting Title X and the prohibition of § 1008. Massachusetts v. Sullivan, 899 F.2d 53, 62 (CA1 1990) ("Congress has not addressed specifically the question of the scope of the abortion prohibition. The language of the statute and the legislative history can support either of the litigants' positions"); Planned Parenthood Federation of America v. Sullivan, 913 F.2d 1492, 1497 (CA10 1990) ("[T]he contemporaneous legislative history does not address whether clinics receiving Title X funds can engage in nondirective counseling including the abortion option and referrals"); New York v. Sullivan, 889 F.2d 401, 407 (CA2 1989) (case below) ("Nothing in the legislative history of Title X detracts" from the Secretary's construction of § 1008). We join these courts in holding that the legislative history is ambiguous, and fails to shed light on relevant congressional intent. At no time did Congress directly address the issues of abortion counseling, referral, or advocacy. The parties' attempts to characterize highly generalized, conflicting statements in the legislative history into accurate revelations of congressional intent are unavailing. [Footnote 3]

Page 500 U. S. 186

When we find, as we do here, that the legislative history is ambiguous and unenlightening on the matters with respect to which the regulations deal, we customarily defer to the expertise of the agency. Petitioners argue, however, that the regulations are entitled to little or no deference, because they "reverse a longstanding agency policy that permitted nondirective counseling and referral for abortion," Brief for Petitioners in No. 89-1392, p. 20, and thus represent a sharp beak from the Secretary's prior construction of the statute. Petitioners argue that the agency's prior consistent interpretation of Section 1008 to permit nondirective counseling and to encourage coordination with local and state family planning services is entitled to substantial weight.

This Court has rejected the argument that an agency's interpretation "is not entitled to deference because it represents a sharp break with prior interpretations" of the statute in question. Chevron, 467 U.S. at 467 U. S. 862. In Chevron, we held that a revised interpretation deserves deference because "[a]n initial agency interpretation is not instantly carved in stone," and "the agency, to engage in informed rulemaking, must consider varying interpretations and the wisdom of its policy on a continuing basis." Id. at 467 U. S. 863-864. An agency is not required to "establish rules of conduct to last forever,'" Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Assn. of United States v. State

Page 500 U. S. 187

Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co.,463 U. S. 29, 463 U. S. 42 (1983), quoting American Trucking Assns., Inc. v. Atchinson, T. & S.F.R. Co.,387 U. S. 397, 387 U. S. 416 (1967); NLRB v. Curtin Matheson Scientific, Inc.,494 U. S. 775 (1990), but rather "must be given ample latitude to `adapt [its] rules and policies to the demands of changing circumstances.'" Motor Vehicle Mfrs., supra, 463 U.S. at 463 U. S. 42, quoting Permian Basin Area Rate Cases,390 U. S. 747, 390 U. S. 784 (1968).

We find that the Secretary amply justified his change of interpretation with a "reasoned analysis." Motor Vehicle Mfrs., supra, 463 U.S. at 463 U. S. 42. The Secretary explained that the regulations are a result of his determination, in the wake of the critical reports of the General Accounting Office (GAO) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), that prior policy failed to implement properly the statute and that it was necessary to provide "clear and operational guidance to grantees to preserve the distinction between Title X programs and abortion as a method of family planning." 53 Fed.Reg. 2923-2924 (1988). He also determined that the new regulations are more in keeping with the original intent of the statute, are justified by client experience under the prior policy, and are supported by a shift in attitude against the "elimination of unborn children by abortion." We believe that these justifications are sufficient to support the Secretary's revised approach. Having concluded that the plain language and legislative history are ambiguous as to Congress' intent in enacting Title X, we must defer to the Secretary's permissible construction of the statute.

B

We turn next to the "program integrity" requirements embodied at § 59.9 of the regulations, mandating separate facilities, personnel, and records. These requirements are not inconsistent with the plain language of Title X. Petitioners contend, however, that they are based on an impermissible construction of the statute because they frustrate the clearly

Page 500 U. S. 188

expressed intent of Congress that Title X programs be an integral part of a broader, comprehensive, health care system. They argue that this integration is impermissibly burdened because the efficient use of nonTitle X funds by Title X grantees will be adversely affected by the regulations.

The Secretary defends the separation requirements of § 59.9 on the grounds that they are necessary to assure that Title X grantees apply federal funds only to federally authorized purposes and that grantees avoid creating the appearance that the government is supporting abortion-related activities. The program integrity regulations were promulgated in direct response to the observations in the GAO and OIG reports that,

"[b]ecause the distinction between the recipient's title X and other activities may not be easily recognized, the public can get the impression that Federal funds are being improperly used for abortion activities."

App. 85. The Secretary concluded that:

"[M]eeting the requirement of section 1008 mandates that Title X programs be organized so that they are physically and financially separate from other activities which are prohibited from inclusion in a Title X program. Having a program that is separate from such activities is a necessary predicate to any determination that abortion is not being included as a method of family planning in the Title X program."

53 Fed.Reg. 2940 (1988). The Secretary further argues that the separation requirements do not represent a deviation from past policy because the agency has consistently taken the position that § 1008 requires some degree of physical and financial separation between Title X projects and abortion-related activities.

We agree that the program integrity requirements are based on a permissible construction of the statute, and are not inconsistent with Congressional intent. As noted, the legislative history is clear about very little, and program integrity is no exception. The statements relied upon by the petitioners

Page 500 U. S. 189

to infer such an intent are highly generalized, and do not directly address the scope of § 1008.

For example, the cornerstone of the conclusion that, in Title X, Congress intended a comprehensive, integrated system of family planning services is the statement in the statute requiring state health authorities applying for Title X funds to submit "a state plan for a coordinated and comprehensive program of family planning services." § 1002. This statement is, on its face, ambiguous as to Congress' intent in enacting Title X and the prohibition of § 1008. Placed in context, the statement merely requires that a State health authority submit a plan for a "coordinated and comprehensive program of family planning services" in order to be eligible for Title X funds. By its own terms, the language evinces Congress' intent to place a duty on state entities seeking federal funds; it does not speak either to an overall view of family planning services or to the Secretary's responsibility for implementing the statute. Likewise, the statement in the original House Report on Title X that the Act was "not intended to interfere with or limit programs conducted in accordance with State or local laws" and supported through non-Title X funds is equally unclear. H.R. Conf.Rep. No. 91-1667, pp. 8-9 (1970), U.S.Code Cong. & Admin.News 1970, p. 5082. This language directly follows the statement that it is the

"intent of both Houses that the funds authorized under this legislation be used only to support preventive family planning services. . . . The conferees have adopted the language contained in section 1008, which prohibits the use of such funds for abortion, in order to make this intent clear."

Id. at 8, U.S.Code Cong. & Admin.News 1970, pp. 5081-82. When placed in context and read in light of the express prohibition of § 1008, the statements fall short of evidencing a congressional intent that would render the Secretary's interpretation of the statute impermissible.

While the petitioners' interpretation of the legislative history may be a permissible one, it is by no means the only one, and it is certainly not the one found by the Secretary. It is well

Page 500 U. S. 190

established that legislative history which does not demonstrate a clear and certain congressional intent cannot form the basis for enjoining the regulations. See Motor Vehicle Mfrs., 463 U.S. at 463 U. S. 42. The Secretary based the need for the separation requirements "squarely on the congressional intent that abortion not be a part of a Title X funded program." 52 Fed.Reg. 33212 (1987). Indeed, if one thing is clear from the legislative history, it is that Congress intended that Title X funds be kept separate and distinct from abortion-related activities. It is undisputed that Title X was intended to provide primarily prepregnancy preventive services. Certainly the Secretary's interpretation of the statute that separate facilities are necessary, especially in light of the express prohibition of § 1008, cannot be judged unreasonable. Accordingly, we defer to the Secretary's reasoned determination that the program integrity requirements are necessary to implement the prohibition.

Petitioners also contend that the regulations must be invalidated because they raise serious questions of constitutional law. They rely on Edward J. Debartolo Corp. v. Florida Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council,485 U. S. 568 (1988), and NLRB v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago,440 U. S. 490 (1979), which hold that "an Act of Congress ought not to be construed to violate the Constitution if any other possible construction remains available." Id. at 440 U. S. 500. Under this canon of statutory construction, "[t]he elementary rule is that every reasonable construction must be resorted to in order to save a statute from unconstitutionality." Debartolo Corp., supra, 485 U.S. at 485 U. S. 575 (emphasis added) quoting Hooper v. California,155 U. S. 648, 155 U. S. 657 (1895).

The principle enunciated in Hooper v. California, supra, and subsequent cases is a categorical one:

"as between two possible interpretations of a statute, by one of which it would be unconstitutional and by the other valid, our plain duty is to adopt that which will save the Act."

Blodgett v. Holden,275 U. S. 142, 275 U. S. 148 (1927) (opinion of Holmes, J.). This principle

Page 500 U. S. 191

is based at least in part on the fact that a decision to declare an act of Congress unconstitutional "is the gravest and most delicate duty that this Court is called on to perform." Id. Following Hooper, supra, cases such as United States v. Delaware and Hudson Co.,213 U. S. 366, 213 U. S. 408, and United States v. Jin Fuey Moy,241 U. S. 394, 241 U. S. 401, developed the corollary doctrine that

"[a] statute must be construed, if fairly possible, so as to avoid not only the conclusion that it is unconstitutional but also grave doubts upon that score."

Jin Fuey Moy, supra, at 9241 U.S. 401401. This canon is followed out of respect for Congress, which we assume legislates in the light of constitutional limitations. FTC v. American Tobacco Co.,264 U. S. 298, 264 U. S. 305-307 (1924). It is qualified by the proposition that "avoidance of a difficulty will not be pressed to the point of disingenuous evasion." Moore Ice Cream Co. v. Rose,289 U. S. 373, 289 U. S. 379 (1933).

Here Congress forbade the use of appropriated funds in programs where abortion is a method of family planning. It authorized the Secretary to promulgate regulations implementing this provision. The extensive litigation regarding governmental restrictions on abortion since our decision in Roe v. Wade,410 U. S. 113 (1973), suggests that it was likely that any set of regulations promulgated by the Secretary -- other than the ones in force prior to 1988 and found by him to be relatively toothless and ineffectual -- would be challenged on constitutional grounds. While we do not think that the constitutional arguments made by petitioners in this case are without some force, in 500 U. S. infra, we hold that they do not carry the day. Applying the canon of construction under discussion as best we can, we hold that the regulations promulgated by the Secretary do not raise the sort of "grave and doubtful constitutional questions," Delaware and Hudson Co., supra, 213 U.S. at 213 U. S. 408, that would lead us to assume Congress did not intend to authorize their issuance. Therefore, we need not invalidate the regulations in order to save the statute from unconstitutionality.

Page 500 U. S. 192

III

Petitioners contend that the regulations violate the First Amendment by impermissibly discriminating based on viewpoint because they prohibit

"all discussion about abortion as a lawful option -- including counseling, referral, and the provision of neutral and accurate information about ending a pregnancy -- while compelling the clinic or counselor to provide information that promotes continuing a pregnancy to term."

Brief for Petitioners in No. 891391, p. 11. They assert that the regulations violate the "free speech rights of private health care organizations that receive Title X funds, of their staff, and of their patients" by impermissibly imposing "viewpoint-discriminatory conditions on government subsidies," and thus penaliz[e] speech funded with non-Title X monies. Id. at 13, 14, 24. Because

"Title X continues to fund speech ancillary to pregnancy testing in a manner that is not evenhanded with respect to views and information about abortion, it invidiously discriminates on the basis of viewpoint."

Id. at 18. Relying on Regan v. Taxation With Representation of Wash. and Arkansas Writers Project, Inc. v. Ragland,481 U. S. 221, 481 U. S. 234 (1987), petitioners also assert that, while the Government may place certain conditions on the receipt of federal subsidies, it may not "discriminate invidiously in its subsidies in such a way as to ai[m] at the suppression of dangerous ideas.'" Regan, supra, 461 U.S. at 461 U. S. 548 (quoting Cammarano v. United States,358 U. S. 498, 358 U. S. 513 (1959)).

There is no question but that the statutory prohibition contained in § 1008 is constitutional. In Maher v. Roe, supra, we upheld a state welfare regulation under which Medicaid recipients received payments for services related to childbirth, but not for nontherapeutic abortions. The Court rejected the claim that this unequal subsidization worked a violation of the Constitution. We held that the government may "make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion, and . . . implement that judgment by the allocation

Page 500 U. S. 193

of public funds." Id. 432 U.S. at 432 U. S. 474. Here the Government is exercising the authority it possesses under Maher and McRae to subsidize family planning services which will lead to conception and childbirth, and declining to "promote or encourage abortion." The Government can, without violating the Constitution, selectively fund a program to encourage certain activities it believes to be in the public interest, without at the same time funding an alternate program which seeks to deal with the problem in another way. In so doing, the Government has not discriminated on the basis of viewpoint; it has merely chosen to fund one activity to the exclusion of the other. "[A] legislature's decision not to subsidize the exercise of a fundamental right does not infringe the right." Regan, supra, 461 U.S. at 461 U. S. 549. See also Buckley v. Valeo,424 U. S. 1 (1976); Cammarano v. United States, supra. "A refusal to fund protected activity, without more, cannot be equated with the imposition of a penalty' on that activity." McRae, 448 U.S. at 448 U. S. 317, n.19.

"There is a basic difference between direct state interference with a protected activity and state encouragement of an alternative activity consonant with legislative policy."

Maher, 432 U.S. at 432 U. S. 475.

The challenged regulations implement the statutory prohibition by prohibiting counseling, referral, and the provision of information regarding abortion as a method of family planning. They are designed to ensure that the limits of the federal program are observed. The Title X program is designed not for prenatal care, but to encourage family planning. A doctor who wished to offer prenatal care to a project patient who became pregnant could properly be prohibited from doing so because such service is outside the scope of the federally funded program. The regulations prohibiting abortion counseling and referral are of the same ilk; "no funds appropriated for the project may be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning," and a doctor employed by the project may be prohibited in

Page 500 U. S. 194

the course of his project duties from counseling abortion or referring for abortion. This is not a case of the Government "suppressing a dangerous idea," but of a prohibition on a project grantee or its employees from engaging in activities outside of its scope.

To hold that the Government unconstitutionally discriminates on the basis of viewpoint when it chooses to fund a program dedicated to advance certain permissible goals because the program, in advancing those goals, necessarily discourages alternate goals would render numerous government programs constitutionally suspect. When Congress established a National Endowment for Democracy to encourage other countries to adopt democratic principles, 22 U.S.C. § 4411(b), it was not constitutionally required to fund a program to encourage competing lines of political philosophy such as Communism and Fascism. Petitioners' assertions ultimately boil down to the position that, if the government chooses to subsidize one protected right, it must subsidize analogous counterpart rights. But the Court has soundly rejected that proposition. Regan v. Taxation With Representation of Wash., supra; Maher v. Roe, supra; Harris v. McRae, supra. Within far broader limits than petitioners are willing to concede, when the government appropriates public funds to establish a program, it is entitled to define the limits of that program.

We believe that petitioners' reliance upon our decision in Arkansas Writers Project, supra, is misplaced. That case involved a state sales tax which discriminated between magazines on the basis of their content. Relying on this fact, and on the fact that the tax "targets a small group within the press," contrary to our decision in Minneapolis Star & Tribune Co. v. Minnesota Comm'r of Revenue,460 U. S. 575 (1983), the Court held the tax invalid. But we have here not the case of a general law singling out a disfavored group on the basis of speech content, but a case of the Government refusing

Page 500 U. S. 195

to fund activities, including speech, which are specifically excluded from the scope of the project funded.

Petitioners rely heavily on their claim that the regulations would not, in the circumstance of a medical emergency, permit a Title X project to refer a woman whose pregnancy places her life in imminent peril to a provider of abortions or abortion-related services. This case, of course, involves only a facial challenge to the regulations, and we do not have before us any application by the Secretary to a specific fact situation. On their face, we do not read the regulations to bar abortion referral or counseling in such circumstances. Abortion counseling as a "method of family planning" is prohibited, and it does not seem that a medically necessitated abortion in such circumstances would be the equivalent of its use as a "method of family planning." Neither § 1008 nor the specific restrictions of the regulations would apply. Moreover, the regulations themselves contemplate that a Title X project would be permitted to engage in otherwise prohibited abortion-related activity in such circumstances. Section 59.8(a)(2) provides a specific exemption for emergency care, and requires Title X recipients "to refer the client immediately to an appropriate provider of emergency medical services." 42 CFR 59.8(a)(2) (1989). Section 59.5(b)(1) also requires Title X projects to provide "necessary referral to other medical facilities when medically indicated." [Footnote 4]

Page 500 U. S. 196

Petitioners also contend that the restrictions on the subsidization of abortion-related speech contained in the regulations are impermissible because they condition the receipt of a benefit, in this case Title X funding, on the relinquishment of a constitutional right, the right to engage in abortion advocacy and counseling. Relying on Perry v. Sindermann,408 U. S. 593, 408 U. S. 597 (1972), and FCC v. League of Women Voters of Cal.,468 U. S. 364 (1984), petitioners argue that,

"even though the government may deny [a] . . . benefit for any number of reasons, there are some reasons upon which the government may not rely. It may not deny a benefit to a person on a basis that infringes his constitutionally protected interests -- especially, his interest in freedom of speech."

Perry, supra, 408 U.S. at 408 U. S. 597.

Petitioners' reliance on these cases is unavailing, however, because here the government is not denying a benefit to anyone, but is instead simply insisting that public funds be spent for the purposes for which they were authorized. The Secretary's regulations do not force the Title X grantee to give up abortion-related speech; they merely require that the grantee keep such activities separate and distinct from Title X activities. Title X expressly distinguishes between a Title X grantee and a Title X project. The grantee, which normally is a health care organization, may receive funds from a variety of sources for a variety of purposes. Brief for Petitioners in No. 89-1391, pp. 3, n. 5, 13. The grantee receives Title X funds, however, for the specific and limited purpose of establishing and operating a Title X project. 42 U.S.C. § 300(a). The regulations govern the scope of the Title X project's activities, and leave the grantee unfettered in its other activities. The Title X grantee can continue to perform abortions, provide abortion-related services, and engage in abortion advocacy; it simply is required to conduct those activities through programs that are separate and independent from the project that receives Title X funds. 42 CFR 59.9 (1989).

Page 500 U. S. 197

In contrast, our "unconstitutional conditions" cases involve situations in which the government has placed a condition on the recipient of the subsidy, rather that on a particular program or service, thus effectively prohibiting the recipient from engaging in the protected conduct outside the scope of the federally funded program. In FCC v. League of Women Voters of Cal., we invalidated a federal law providing that noncommercial television and radio stations that receive federal grants may not "engage in editorializing." Under that law, a recipient of federal funds was "barred absolutely from all editorializing," because it "is not able to segregate its activities according to the source of its funding," and thus "has no way of limiting the use of its federal funds to all noneditorializing activities." The effect of the law was that

"a noncommercial educational station that receives only 1% of its overall income from [federal] grants is barred absolutely from all editorializing"

and "barred from using even wholly private funds to finance its editorial activity." 468 U.S. at 468 U. S. 400. We expressly recognized, however, that were Congress to permit the recipient stations to

"establish affiliate' organizations which could then use the station's facilities to editorialize with nonfederal funds, such a statutory mechanism would plainly be valid."

Ibid. Such a scheme would permit the station

"to make known its views on matters of public importance through its nonfederally funded, editorializing affiliate without losing federal grants for its noneditorializing broadcast activities."

Ibid.

Similarly, in Regan, we held that Congress could, in the exercise of its spending power, reasonably refuse to subsidize the lobbying activities of tax-exempt charitable organizations by prohibiting such organizations from using tax-deductible contributions to support their lobbying efforts. In so holding, we explained that such organizations remained free "to receive deductible contributions to support . . . nonlobbying activit[ies]." 461 U.S. at 461 U. S. 545. Thus, a charitable organization could create, under § 501(c)(3) of the Internal

Page 500 U. S. 198

Revenue Code of 1954, 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3), an affiliate to conduct its nonlobbying activities using tax-deductible contributions, and at the same time establish, under § 501(c)(4), a separate affiliate to pursue its lobbying efforts without such contributions. Regan, supra, at 461 U. S. 544. Given that alternative, the Court concluded that

"Congress has not infringed any First Amendment rights or regulated any First Amendment activity[; it] has simply chosen not to pay for [appellee's] lobbying."

Id. at 461 U. S. 546. We also noted that appellee

"would, of course, have to ensure that th § 501(c)(3) organization did not subsidize the § 501(c)(4) organization; otherwise, public funds might be spent on an activity Congress chose not to subsidize."

Ibid. The condition that federal funds will be used only to further the purposes of a grant does not violate constitutional rights.

"Congress could, for example, grant funds to an organization dedicated to combating teenage drug abuse, but condition the grant by providing that none of the money received from Congress should be used to lobby state legislatures."

See id. at 461 U. S. 548.

By requiring that the Title X grantee engage in abortion-related activity separately from activity receiving federal funding, Congress has, consistent with our teachings in League of Women Voters and Regan, not denied it the right to engage in abortion-related activities. Congress has merely refused to fund such activities out of the public fisc, and the Secretary has simply required a certain degree of separation from the Title X project in order to ensure the integrity of the federally funded program.

The same principles apply to petitioners' claim that the regulations abridge the free speech rights of the grantee's staff. Individuals who are voluntarily employed for a Title X project must perform their duties in accordance with the regulation's restrictions on abortion counseling and referral. The employees remain free, however, to pursue abortion-related activities when they are not acting under the auspices of the Title X project. The regulations, which govern solely

Page 500 U. S. 199

the scope of the Title X project's activities, do not in any way restrict the activities of those persons acting as private individuals. The employees' freedom of expression is limited during the time that they actually work for the project, but this limitation is a consequence of their decision to accept employment in a project, the scope of which is permissibly restricted by the funding authority. [Footnote 5]

This is not to suggest that funding by the Government, even when coupled with the freedom of the fund recipients to speak outside the scope of the Government-funded project, is invariably sufficient to justify government control over the content of expression. For example, this Court has recognized

Page 500 U. S. 200

that the existence of a Government "subsidy," in the form of Government-owned property, does not justify the restriction of speech in areas that have "been traditionally open to the public for expressive activity," United States v. Kokinda,497 U. S. 720, 497 U. S. 726 (1990); Hague v. CIO,307 U. S. 496, 307 U. S. 515 (1939) (opinion of Roberts, J.), or have been "expressly dedicated to speech activity." Kokinda, supra, at 497 U. S. 726; Perry Education Assn. v. Perry Local Educators' Assn.,460 U. S. 37, 460 U. S. 45 (1983). Similarly, we have recognized that the university is a traditional sphere of free expression so fundamental to the functioning of our society that the Government's ability to control speech within that sphere by means of conditions attached to the expenditure of Government funds is restricted by the vagueness and overbreadth doctrines of the First Amendment, Keyishian v. Board of Regents,385 U. S. 589, 385 U. S. 603, 385 U. S. 605-606 (1967). It could be argued by analogy that traditional relationships such as that between doctor and patient should enjoy protection under the First Amendment from government regulation, even when subsidized by the Government. We need not resolve that question here, however, because the Title X program regulations do not significantly impinge upon the doctorpatient relationship. Nothing in them requires a doctor to represent as his own any opinion that he does not in fact hold. Nor is the doctor-patient relationship established by the Title X program sufficiently all-encompassing so as to justify an expectation on the part of the patient of comprehensive medical advice. The program does not provide post-conception medical care, and therefore a doctor's silence with regard to abortion cannot reasonably be thought to mislead a client into thinking that the doctor does not consider abortion an appropriate option for her. The doctor is always free to make clear that advice regarding abortion is simply beyond the scope of the program. In these circumstances, the general rule that the Government may choose not to subsidize speech applies with full force.

Page 500 U. S. 201

IV

We turn now to petitioners' argument that the regulations violate a woman's Fifth Amendment right to choose whether to terminate her pregnancy. We recently reaffirmed the long-recognized principle that

"'the Due Process Clauses generally confer no affirmative right to governmental aid, even where such aid may be necessary to secure life, liberty, or property interests of which the government itself may not deprive the individual.'"

Webster, 492 U.S. at 492 U. S. 507, quoting DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Services,489 U. S. 189, 489 U. S. 196 (1989). The Government has no constitutional duty to subsidize an activity merely because the activity is constitutionally protected, and may validly choose to fund childbirth over abortion and "implement that judgment by the allocation of public funds'" for medical services relating to childbirth, but not to those relating to abortion. Webster, supra, 492 U.S. at 492 U. S. 510 (citation omitted). The Government has no affirmative duty to "commit any resources to facilitating abortions," Webster, 492 U.S. at 492 U. S. 511, and its decision to fund childbirth but not abortion

"places no governmental obstacle in the path of a woman who chooses to terminate her pregnancy, but rather, by means of unequal subsidization of abortion and other medical services, encourages alternative activity deemed in the public interest."

McRae, 448 U.S. at 448 U. S. 315.

That the regulations do not impermissibly burden a woman's Fifth Amendment rights is evident from the line of cases beginning with Maher and McRae and culminating in our most recent decision in Webster. Just as Congress' refusal to fund abortions in McRae left "an indigent woman with at least the same range of choice in deciding whether to obtain a medically necessary abortion as she would have had if Congress had chosen to subsidize no health care costs at all," 448 U.S. at 448 U. S. 317, and

"Missouri's refusal to allow public employees to perform abortions in public hospitals leaves a pregnant woman with the same choices as if the State had chosen not

Page 500 U. S. 202

to operate any public hospitals,"

Webster, supra, at 492 U. S. 509, Congress' refusal to fund abortion counseling and advocacy leaves a pregnant woman with the same choices as if the government had chosen not to fund family planning services at all. The difficulty that a woman encounters when a Title X project does not provide abortion counseling or referral leaves her in no different position than she would have been if the government had not enacted Title X.

In Webster, we stated that,

"[h]aving held that the State's refusal [in Maher] to fund abortions does not violate Roe v. Wade, it strains logic to reach a contrary result for the use of public facilities and employees."

492 U.S. at 492 U. S. 509-510. It similarly would strain logic, in light of the more extreme restrictions in those cases, to find that the mere decision to exclude abortion-related services from a federally funded pre-conceptual family planning program, is unconstitutional.

Petitioners also argue that by impermissibly infringing on the doctor/patient relationship and depriving a Title X client of information concerning abortion as a method of family planning, the regulations violate a woman's Fifth Amendment right to medical self-determination and to make informed medical decisions free of government-imposed harm. They argue that, under our decisions in Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, Inc.,462 U. S. 416 (1983), and Thornburg v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists,476 U. S. 747 (1986), the government cannot interfere with a woman's right to make an informed and voluntary choice by placing restrictions on the patient/doctor dialogue.

In Akron, we invalidated a city ordinance requiring all physicians to make specified statements to the patient prior to performing an abortion in order to ensure that the woman's consent was "truly informed." 462 U.S. at 462 U. S. 423. Similarly, in Thornburg, we struck down a state statute mandating that a list of agencies offering alternatives to abortion and a description of fetal development be provided to every woman considering terminating her pregnancy through an

Page 500 U. S. 203

abortion. Critical to our decisions in Akron and Thornburg to invalidate a governmental intrusion into the patient/doctor dialogue was the fact that the laws in both cases required all doctors within their respective jurisdictions to provide all pregnant patients contemplating an abortion a litany of information, regardless of whether the patient sought the information or whether the doctor thought the information necessary to the patient's decision. Under the Secretary's regulations, however, a doctor's ability to provide, and a woman's right to receive, information concerning abortion and abortion-related services outside the context of the Title X project remains unfettered. It would undoubtedly be easier for a woman seeking an abortion if she could receive information about abortion from a Title X project, but the Constitution does not require that the Government distort the scope of its mandated program in order to provide that information.

Petitioners contend, however, that most Title X clients are effectively precluded by indigency and poverty from seeing a health care provider who will provide abortion-related services. But once again, even these Title X clients are in no worse position than if Congress had never enacted Title X.

"The financial constraints that restrict an indigent woman's ability to enjoy the full range of constitutionally protected freedom of choice are the product not of governmental restrictions on access to abortion, but rather of her indigency."

McRae, supra, 448 U.S. at 448 U. S. 316.

The Secretary's regulations are a permissible construction of Title X, and do not violate either the First or Fifth Amendments to the Constitution. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is

Affirmed.

[Footnote 1]

Both the First Circuit and the Tenth Circuit have invalidated the regulations, primarily on constitutional grounds. See Massachusetts v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 899 F.2d 53 (CA1 1990); Planned Parenthood Federation of America v. Sullivan, 913 F.2d 1492 (CA10 1990).

[Footnote 2]

"Most clients of title X-sponsored clinics are not pregnant, and generally receive only physical examinations, education on contraceptive methods, and services related to birth control."

General Accounting Office Report, App. at 95.

[Footnote 3]

For instance, the Secretary relies on the following passage of the House Report as evidence that the regulations are consistent with legislative intent:

"It is, and has been, the intent of both Houses that the funds authorized under this legislation be used only to support preventive family planning services, population research, infertility services, and other related medical, informational, and educational activities. The conferees have adopted the language contained in section 1008, which prohibits the use of such funds for abortion, in order to make this intent clear."

H.R.Conf.Rep. No. 91-1667, p. 8 (1970), U.S.Code Cong.Admin.News 1970, pp. 5081-82. Petitioners, however, point to language in the statement of purpose in the House Report preceding the passage of Title X stressing the importance of supplying both family planning information and a full range of family planning information, and of developing a comprehensive and coordinated program. Petitioners also rely on the Senate Report which states:

"The committee does not view family planning as merely a euphemism for birth control. It is properly a part of comprehensive health care, and should consist of much more than the dispensation of contraceptive devices. . . . [A] successful family planning program must contain . . . [m]edical services, including consultation examination, prescription, and continuing supervision, supplies, instruction, and referral to other medical services as needed."

S.Rep. No. 91-1004, p. 10 (1970).

These directly conflicting statements of legislative intent demonstrate amply the inadequacies of the "traditional tools of statutory construction," Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. [421] at 480 U. S. 446-447, in resolving the issue before us.

[Footnote 4]

We also find that, on their face, the regulations are narrowly tailored to fit Congress' intent in Title X that federal funds not be used to "promote or advocate" abortion as a "method of family planning." The regulations are designed to ensure compliance with the prohibition of § 1008 that none of the funds appropriated under Title X be used in a program where abortion is a method of family planning. We have recognized that Congress' power to allocate funds for public purposes includes an ancillary power to ensure that those funds are properly applied to the prescribed use. See South Dakota v. Dole,483 U. S. 203, 483 U. S. 207-209 (1987) (upholding against Tenth Amendment challenge requirement that States raise drinking age as condition to receipt of federal highway funds); Buckley v. Valeo,424 U. S. 1, 424 U. S. 99 (1976).

[Footnote 5]

Petitioners also contend that the regulations violate the First Amendment by penalizing speech funded with non-Title X monies. They argue that, since Title X requires that grant recipients contribute to the financing of Title X projects through the use of matching funds and grant-related income, the regulation's restrictions on abortion counseling and advocacy penalize privately funded speech.

We find this argument flawed for several reasons. First, Title X subsidies are just that, subsidies. The recipient is in no way compelled to operate a Title X project; to avoid the force of the regulations, it can simply decline the subsidy. See Grove City College v. Bell,465 U. S. 555, 465 U. S. 575 (1984) (petitioner's First Amendment rights not violated, because it "may terminate its participation in the [federal] program, and thus avoid the requirements of [the federal program]"). By accepting Title X funds, a recipient voluntarily consents to any restrictions placed on any matching funds or grant-related income. Potential grant recipients can choose between accepting Title X funds -- subject to the Government's conditions that they provide matching funds and forgo abortion counseling and referral in the Title X project -- or declining the subsidy and financing their own unsubsidized program. We have never held that the Government violates the First Amendment simply by offering that choice. Second, the Secretary's regulations apply only to Title X programs. A recipient is therefore able to "limi[t] the use of its federal funds to [Title X] activities." FCC v. League of Women Voters of Cal.,468 U. S. 364, at 468 U. S. 400 (1984). It is in no way "barred from using even wholly private funds to finance" its pro-abortion activities outside the Title X program. Ibid. The regulations are limited to Title X funds; the recipient remains free to use private, non-Title X funds to finance abortion-related activities.

JUSTICE BLACKMUN, with whom JUSTICE MARSHALL joins, with whom JUSTICE STEVENS joins as to Parts II and

Page 500 U. S. 204

III, and with whom JUSTICE O'CONNOR joins as to Part I, dissenting.

Casting aside established principles of statutory construction and administrative jurisprudence, the majority in these cases today unnecessarily passes upon important questions of constitutional law. In so doing, the Court, for the first time, upholds viewpoint-based suppression of speech solely because it is imposed on those dependent upon the Government for economic support. Under essentially the same rationale, the majority upholds direct regulation of dialogue between a pregnant woman and her physician when that regulation has both the purpose and the effect of manipulating her decision as to the continuance of her pregnancy. I conclude that the Secretary's regulation of referral, advocacy, and counseling activities exceeds his statutory authority, and also that the Regulations violate the First and Fifth Amendments of our Constitution. Accordingly, I dissent, and would reverse the divided-vote judgment of the Court of Appeals.

I

The majority does not dispute that "[f]ederal statutes are to be so construed as to avoid serious doubt of their constitutionality." Machinists v. Street,367 U. S. 740, 367 U. S. 749 (1961). See also Hooper v. California,155 U. S. 648, 155 U. S. 657 (1895); Crowell v. Benson,285 U. S. 22, 285 U. S. 62 (1932); United States v. Security Industrial Bank,459 U. S. 70, 459 U. S. 78 (1982). Nor does the majority deny that this principle is fully applicable to cases such as the instant one, in which a plausible but constitutionally suspect statutory interpretation is embodied in an administrative regulation. See Edward J. DeBartolo Corp. v. Florida Gulf Coast Building & Construction Trades Council,485 U. S. 568, 485 U. S. 575 (1988); NLRB v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago,440 U. S. 490 (1979); Kent v. Dulles,357 U. S. 116, 357 U. S. 129-130 (1958). Rather, in its zeal to address the constitutional issues, the majority sidesteps this established canon of construction with the feeble excuse that the challenged

Page 500 U. S. 205

Regulations

"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."

Ante at 500 U. S. 191, quoting United States v. Delaware and Hudson Co.,213 U. S. 366, 213 U. S. 408 (1909).

This facile response to the intractable problem the Court addresses today is disingenuous, at best. Whether or not one believes that these Regulations are valid, it avoids reality to contend that they do not give rise to serious constitutional questions. The canon is applicable to this case not because "it was likely that [the Regulations] . . . would be challenged on constitutional grounds," ante at 500 U. S. 191, but because the question squarely presented by the Regulations -- the extent to which the Government may attach an otherwise unconstitutional condition to the receipt of a public benefit -- implicates a troubled area of our jurisprudence in which a court ought not entangle itself unnecessarily. See, e.g., Epstein, Unconstitutional Conditions, State Power, and the Limits of Consent, 102 Harv.L.Rev. 4, 6 (1988) (describing this problem as "the basic structural issue that for over a hundred years has bedeviled courts and commentators alike. . . ."); Sullivan, Unconstitutional Conditions, 102 Harv.L.Rev. 1413, 1415-1416 (1989) (observing that this Court's unconstitutional conditions cases "seem a minefield to be traversed gingerly").

As is discussed in Parts II and III, infra, the Regulations impose viewpoint-based restrictions upon protected speech, and are aimed at a woman's decision whether to continue or terminate her pregnancy. In both respects, they implicate core constitutional values. This verity is evidenced by the fact that two of the three Courts of Appeals that have entertained challenges to the Regulations have invalidated them on constitutional grounds. See Massachusetts v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 899 F.2d 53 (CA1 1990); Planned Parenthood Federation of America v. Sullivan, 913 F.2d 1492 (CA10 1990).

Page 500 U. S. 206

A divided panel of the Tenth Circuit found the Regulations

"fal[l] squarely within the prohibition in Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists,476 U. S. 747 (1986), and City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, Inc.,462 U. S. 416 (1983), against intrusion into the advice a woman requests from or is given by her doctor."

913 F.2d at 1501. The First Circuit, en banc with one judge dissenting, found the Regulations to violate both the privacy rights of Title X patients and the First Amendment rights of Title X grantees. See also New York v. Sullivan, 889 F.2d 401, 415 (CA2 1989) (Kearse, J., dissenting in part). That a bare majority of this Court today reaches a different result does not change the fact that the constitutional questions raised by the Regulations are both grave and doubtful.

Nor is this a case in which the statutory language itself requires us to address a constitutional question. Section 1008 of the Public Health Service Act, 84 Stat. 1508, 42 U.S.C. § 300a-6, provides simply: "None of the funds appropriated under this title shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning." The majority concedes that this language "does not speak directly to the issues of counseling, referral, advocacy, or program integrity," ante at 500 U. S. 184, and that "the legislative history is ambiguous" in this respect. Ante at 500 U. S. 186. Consequently, the language of § 1008 easily sustains a constitutionally trouble-free interpretation. [Footnote 2/1]

Page 500 U. S. 207

Thus, this is not a situation in which "the intention of Congress is revealed too distinctly to permit us to ignore it because of mere misgivings as to power." Moore Ice Cream Co. v. Rose,289 U. S. 373, 289 U. S. 379 (1933). Indeed, it would appear that our duty to avoid passing unnecessarily upon important constitutional questions is strongest where, as here, the language of the statute is decidedly ambiguous. It is both logical and eminently prudent to assume that, when Congress intends to press the limits of constitutionality in its enactments, it will express that intent in explicit and unambiguous terms. See Sunstein, Law and Administration After Chevron, 90 Colum.L.Rev. 2071, 2113 (1990) ("It is thus implausible that, after Chevron, agency interpretations of ambiguous statutes will prevail even if the consequence of those interpretations is to produce invalidity or to raise serious constitutional doubts").

Because I conclude that a plainly constitutional construction of § 1008 "is not only fairly possible' but entirely reasonable," Machinists, 367 U.S. at 367 U. S. 750, I would reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals on this ground without deciding the constitutionality of the Secretary's Regulations.

II

I also strongly disagree with the majority's disposition of petitioners' constitutional claims, and because I feel that a response thereto is indicated, I move on to that issue.

A

Until today, the Court never has upheld viewpoint-based suppression of speech simply because that suppression was a condition upon the acceptance of public funds. Whatever may be the Government's power to condition the receipt of its largess upon the relinquishment of constitutional rights, it surely does not extend to a condition that suppresses the recipient's cherished freedom of speech based solely upon the content or viewpoint of that speech. Speiser v. Randall,357 U. S. 513, 357 U. S. 518-519 (1958) ("To deny an exemption to claimants

Page 500 U. S. 208

who engage in certain forms of speech is in effect to penalize them for such speech. . . . The denial is frankly aimed at the suppression of dangerous ideas,'" quoting American Communications Assn. v. Douds,339 U. S. 382, 339 U. S. 402 (1950)). See Cammarano v. United States,358 U. S. 498, 358 U. S. 513 (1959). See also League of Women Voters, 468 U.S. at 468 U. S. 407 (REHNQUIST, J., dissenting). Cf. Arkansas Writers' Project, Inc. v. Ragland,481 U. S. 221, 481 U. S. 237 (1987) (SCALIA, J., dissenting). This rule is a sound one, for, as the Court often has noted:

""A regulation of speech that is motivated by nothing more than a desire to curtail expression of a particular point of view on controversial issues of general interest is the purest example of a law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.'""

League of Women Voters, 468 U.S. at 468 U. S. 383-384, quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. Public Service Comm'n of New York,447 U. S. 530, 447 U. S. 546 (1980) (STEVENS, J., concurring in judgment).

"[A]bove all else, the First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content."

Police Department of Chicago v. Mosley,408 U. S. 92, 408 U. S. 95 (1972).

Nothing in the Court's opinion in Regan v. Taxation With Representation of Washington,461 U. S. 540 (1983), can be said to challenge this long-settled understanding. In Regan, the Court upheld a content-neutral provision of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3), that disallowed a particular tax-exempt status to organizations that "attempt[ed] to influence legislation," while affording such status to veterans' organizations irrespective of their lobbying activities. Finding the case controlled by Cammarano, supra, the Court explained:

"The case would be different if Congress were to discriminate invidiously in its subsidies in such a way as to "ai[m] at the suppression of dangerous ideas.'" . . . We find no indication that the statute was intended to suppress any ideas or any demonstration that it has had that effect."

461 U.S. at 461 U. S. 548, quoting Cammarano, 358 U.S. at

Page 500 U. S. 209

358 U. S. 513, in turn quoting Speiser, 357 U.S. at 357 U. S. 519. The separate concurrence in Regan joined the Court's opinion precisely

"[b]ecause 26 U.S.C. § 501's discrimination between veterans' organizations and charitable organizations is not based on the content of their speech."

Id. 461 U.S. at 461 U. S. 551.

It cannot seriously be disputed that the counseling and referral provisions at issue in the present cases constitute content-based regulation of speech. Title X grantees may provide counseling and referral regarding any of a wide range of family planning and other topics, save abortion. Cf. Consolidated Edison Co., 447 U.S. at 447 U. S. 537 ("The First Amendment's hostility to content-based regulation extends not only to restrictions on particular viewpoints, but also to prohibition of public discussion of an entire topic"); Boos v. Barry,485 U. S. 312, 485 U. S. 319 (1988) (opinion of O'CONNOR, J.) (same).

The Regulations are also clearly viewpoint-based. While suppressing speech favorable to abortion with one hand, the Secretary compels anti-abortion speech with the other. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services' own description of the Regulations makes plain that

"Title X projects are required to facilitate access to prenatal care and social services, including adoption services, that might be needed by the pregnant client to promote her wellbeing and that of her child, while making it abundantly clear that the project is not permitted to promote abortion by facilitating access to abortion through the referral process."

53 Fed.Reg. 2927 (1988) (emphasis added).

Moreover, the Regulations command that a project refer for prenatal care each woman diagnosed as pregnant, irrespective of the woman's expressed desire to continue or terminate her pregnancy. 42 CFR § 59.8(a)(2) (1990). If a client asks directly about abortion, a Title X physician or counselor is required to say, in essence, that the project does not consider abortion to be an appropriate method of family planning. § 59.8(b)(4). Both requirements are antithetical to

Page 500 U. S. 210

the First Amendment. See Wooley v. Maynard,430 U. S. 705, 430 U. S. 714 (1977).

The Regulations pertaining to "advocacy" are even more explicitly viewpoint-based. These provide: "A Title X project may not encourage, promote or advocate abortion as a method of family planning." § 59.10 (emphasis added). They explain:

"This requirement prohibits actions to assistwomen to obtain abortions or increase the availability or accessibility of abortion for family planning purposes."

§ 59.10(a) (emphasis added). The Regulations do not, however, proscribe or even regulate antiabortion advocacy. These are clearly restrictions aimed at the suppression of "dangerous ideas."

Remarkably, the majority concludes that "the Government has not discriminated on the basis of viewpoint; it has merely chosen to fund one activity to the exclusion of another." Ante at 500 U. S. 193. But the majority's claim that the Regulations merely limit a Title X project's speech to preventive or preconceptional services, ibid., rings hollow in light of the broad range of non-preventive services that the Regulations authorize Title X projects to provide. [Footnote 2/2] By refusing to fund those family planning projects that advocate abortion because they advocate abortion, the Government plainly has targeted a particular viewpoint. Cf. Ward v. Rock Against Racism,491 U. S. 781 (1989). The majority's reliance on the fact that the Regulations pertain solely to funding decisions simply begs the question. Clearly, there are some bases upon which government may not rest its decision to fund or not to fund. For example, the Members of the majority surely would agree that government may not base its

Page 500 U. S. 211

decision to support an activity upon considerations of race. See, e.g., Yick Wo v. Hopkins,118 U. S. 356 (1886). As demonstrated above, our cases make clear that ideological viewpoint is a similarly repugnant ground upon which to base funding decisions.

The majority's reliance upon Regan in this connection is also misplaced. That case stands for the proposition that government has no obligation to subsidize a private party's efforts to petition the legislature regarding its views. Thus, if the challenged Regulations were confined to nonideological limitations upon the use of Title X funds for lobbying activities, there would exist no violation of the First Amendment. The advocacy Regulations at issue here, however, are not limited to lobbying, but extend to all speech having the effect of encouraging, promoting, or advocating abortion as a method of family planning. § 59.10(a). Thus, in addition to their impermissible focus upon the viewpoint of regulated speech, the provisions intrude upon a wide range of communicative conduct, including the very words spoken to a woman by her physician. By manipulating the content of the doctor/patient dialogue, the Regulations upheld today force each of the petitioners "to be an instrument for fostering public adherence to an ideological point of view [he or she] finds unacceptable." Wooley v. Maynard, 430 U.S. at 430 U. S. 715. This type of intrusive, ideologically based regulation of speech goes far beyond the narrow lobbying limitations approved in Regan, and cannot be justified simply because it is a condition upon the receipt of a governmental benefit. [Footnote 2/3]

Page 500 U. S. 212

B

The Court concludes that the challenged Regulations do not violate the First Amendment rights of Title X staff members, because any limitation of the employees' freedom of expression is simply a consequence of their decision to accept employment at a federally funded project. Ante at 500 U. S. 198-199. But it has never been sufficient to justify an otherwise unconstitutional condition upon public employment that the employee may escape the condition by relinquishing his or her job. It is beyond question

"that a government may not require an individual to relinquish rights guaranteed him by the First Amendment as a condition of public employment."

Abood v. Detroit Board of Education,431 U. S. 209, 431 U. S. 234 (1977), citing Elrod v. Burns,427 U. S. 347, 427 U. S. 357-360 (1976), and cases cited therein; Perry v. Sindermann,408 U. S. 593 (1972); Keyishian v. Board of Regents,385 U. S. 589 (1967). Nearly two decades ago, it was said:

"For at least a quarter-century, this Court has made clear that, even though a person has no 'right' to a valuable governmental benefit, and even though the government may deny him the benefit for any number of reasons, there are some reasons upon which the government may not rely. It may not deny a benefit to a

Page 500 U. S. 213

person on a basis that infringes his constitutionally protected interests -- especially, his interest in freedom of speech. For if the government could deny a benefit to a person because of his constitutionally protected speech or associations, his exercise of those freedoms would, in effect, be penalized and inhibited. This would allow the government to 'produce a result which [it] could not command directly.'"

Perry v. Sindermann, 408 U.S. at 408 U. S. 597, quoting Speiser v. Randall,357 U. S. 513, 357 U. S. 526 (1958).

The majority attempts to circumvent this principle by emphasizing that Title X physicians and counselors "remain free . . . to pursue abortion-related activities when they are not acting under the auspices of the Title X project." Ante at 500 U. S. 198. "The regulations," the majority explains, "do not in any way restrict the activities of those persons acting as private individuals." Ibid. Under the majority's reasoning, the First Amendment could be read to tolerate any governmental restriction upon an employee's speech so long as that restriction is limited to the funded workplace. This is a dangerous proposition, and one the Court has rightly rejected in the past.

In Abood, it was no answer to the petitioners' claim of compelled speech as a condition upon public employment that their speech outside the workplace remained unregulated by the State. Nor was the public employee's First Amendment claim in Rankin v. McPherson,483 U. S. 378 (1987), derogated because the communication that her employer sought to punish occurred during business hours. At the least, such conditions require courts to balance the speaker's interest in the message against those of government in preventing its dissemination. Id. at 483 U. S. 384; Pickering v. Board of Education,391 U. S. 563, 391 U. S. 568 (1968).

In the cases at bar, the speaker's interest in the communication is both clear and vital. In addressing the family planning needs of their clients, the physicians and counselors who staff Title X projects seek to provide them with the full range of information and options regarding their health and reproductive freedom. Indeed, the legitimate expectations

Page 500 U. S. 214

of the patient and the ethical responsibilities of the medical profession demand no less.

"The patient's right of self-decision can be effectively exercised only if the patient possesses enough information to enable an intelligent choice. . . . The physician has an ethical obligation to help the patient make choices from among the therapeutic alternatives consistent with good medical practice."

Current Opinions, the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs of the American Medical Association

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