Rust v. Sullivan Case Brief

Why is the case important?

The Respondent, Sullivan (Respondent), instituted regulations that prohibited federal monies to be used to educate Medicaid recipients about abortion as a family planning option.

Facts of the case

The national government provides funds for family planning services (Title X). The Department of Health and Human Services issued regulations limiting the ability of Title X fund recipients to engage in abortion-related activities. Title X funds were to be used only to support preventive family planning services.


Does this restriction violate the First Amendment of the Constitution by prohibiting certain content-based discussions from occurring?
Does the restriction condition the receipt of a benefit on the relinquishment of a constitutional right?


No. The government may choose to fund one program at the exclusion of another. The legislature’s decision not to subsidize the exercise of a fundamental right, does not infringe upon the right.
No. The regulations do not require recipients to forfeit rights. Instead, they mandate that the activities be kept separate and distinct from the funded program.


The U.S. Constitution did not require the government to distort the scope of its program in order to provide information about abortion to indigent women where the statute did not encroach on a doctor’s ability to provide or a woman’s right to receive information concerning abortion-related services outside the Title X project.

  • Case Brief: 1991
  • Petitioner: Rust
  • Respondent: Sullivan
  • Decided by: Rehnquist Court

Citation: 500 US 173 (1991)
Argued: Oct 30, 1990
Decided: May 23, 1991