Supreme Court refuses to take up states' case to defund Planned Parenthood

  • The nation’s top court refused to hear a case that carried big implications for Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding.
  • Officials in Louisiana and Kansas, two Republican-led states, contended that health providers can’t go to court if they are blocked from Medicaid.
  • The Supreme Court’s decision lets stand rulings by lower courts that said states would violate federal law if they terminate Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood and other providers.

The Supreme Court refused to hear a case that would have considered whether states can block Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

Officials in Louisiana and Kansas contended that providers don’t get the right to go to court if they are kicked out of Medicaid by individual states. By refusing to consider the case, the top court let stand previous federal appeals court rulings that allowed Planned Parenthood to contest laws in Louisiana and Kansas that would have stripped abortion providers of their Medicaid funds. These lower court rulings found that states would be in violation of federal law if they terminate Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood and its affiliates.

With this decision, the Supreme Court dealt a significant blow to conservative groups across states that seek the removal of abortion and women’s healthcare providers like Planned Parenthood from Medicaid.

Read more:
The fight to defund Planned Parenthood has very little to do with abortions

Had the court taken up the case, it would have been the first major abortion test for the court’s conservative majority. Though it would have taken only four justices to agree to take up the case, only three conservative justices – Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Samuel Alito – voted to hear it. Chief Justice John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh sided with the liberal justices, avoiding a major abortion rights fight – for now.

In his dissent, however, Justice Thomas said the question brought forth by the case “has nothing to do with abortion” but instead has to do with private rights of action under the Medicaid Act – whether or not patients can challenge a state’s Medicaid decisions.

“So what explains the Court’s refusal to do its job here? I suspect it has something to do with the fact that some respondents in these cases are named ‘Planned Parenthood,'” Thomas wrote. “That makes the Court’s decision particularly troubling.”

The court’s “inaction,” he said, could prove costly for states that may face federal lawsuits brought forth by patients whose doctors have been removed as Medicaid providers.

“Resolving the question presented here would not even affect Planned Parenthood’s ability to challenge the States’ decisions; it concerns only the rights of individual Medicaid patients to bring their own suits,” he said.

Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the organisation was “pleased that lower court rulings protecting patients remain in place.”

“As a doctor, I have seen what’s at stake when people cannot access the care they need, and when politics gets in the way of people making their own health care choices,” she said. “We won’t stop fighting for every patient who relies on Planned Parenthood for life-saving, life-changing care.”

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