The Supreme Court is staying out of legal fight over efforts to block Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, with the newest justice casting the deciding vote.
The high court Monday rejected review of appeals from two states, which claim the nation’s largest abortion provider should not receive any public funding after a series of disputed videos surfaced reportedly showing the group engaged in illegal sales of fetal tissue for medical research.
Planned Parenthood does not receive any federal funding for abortion, but does provide a range of other medical and health services for poor families, including cancer screening and contraception. It was never charged in the fetal tissue issue.
Lawmakers in Louisiana and Kansas had sought to defund the group. Planned Parenthood then brought suit to overturn state laws in an effort to preserve its Medicaid services.
Three conservative justices said in dissent the Supreme Court should get involved in the legal fight.
“These cases are not about abortion rights. They are about private rights of action under the Medicaid Act,” said Justice Clarence Thomas. “Some tenuous connection to a politically fraught issue does not justify abdicating our judicial duty.”
He was supported by Justice Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch.
The six members voting to deny the petitions did not comment. That included the court’s two other conservatives—Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts—who did not support taking on the issue now, effectively giving a victory to Planned Parenthood.
"We are pleased that lower court rulings protecting patients remain in place. Every person has a fundamental right to health care, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much they earn," said Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Similar defunding laws in Arizona, Ohio, Texas, and Indiana have also been tossed by the lower courts. Only Arkansas’ law has been allowed to go into effect, but that is being challenged in the courts.
“Abortion is not healthcare, it is a human rights abuse. Until Planned Parenthood ceases to perform abortions they should not receive any money from taxpayers,” Jeanne Mancini, the president of March for Life, said in a statement.
At issue is whether only the federal government can bring suit over how Medicaid funding is allocated by the states, not private individuals like healthcare providers.
Medicaid provides health care services for the poor, is jointly funded by the states and national government, but administered largely by the states. About 70 million people are enrolled in the program, including two million women who use Planned Parenthood clinics.
The cases are Andersen v. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri (17-1340) and Gee v. Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast Inc. (17-1492).