SCOTUS Won't Hear States' Appeal to Cut Planned Parenthood Funding

The Supreme Court Monday rejected appeals from Kansas and Louisiana in their effort to block funding from Planned Parenthood.

The two states were appealing rulings from two lower courts that said states violate federal law when they terminate Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood affiliates and withhold that money which is used for health services for low-income women, CNN reports.

In order for the Supreme Court to hear a case, four justices must agree to hear the issue, but the vote fell short. Only three justices — Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch — voted to hear the issue. New Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts, however, appeared to side with the court’s liberals by not taking up the case, thus avoiding a high-profile case.

With the court’s conservative justices splitting, Thomas chastised his colleagues for appearing to be ducking out of the case because of political concerns.

“What explains the Court's refusal to do its job here?” Thomas wrote in a dissent for the three justices that voted to hear the case. “I suspect it has something to do with the fact that some respondents in these cases are named Planned Parenthood.”

“But these cases are not about abortion rights,” he said. “They are about private rights of action under the Medicaid Act. 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.”

The issue at hand is about who has the right to challenge a state’s Medicaid funding decision, according to The Huffington Post. States had argued that since the Medicaid program is a collaboration between the federal and state governments to provide health care to low-income Americans, it’s evident that only the Secretary of Health and Human Services can intervene by withholding money from the state.

But these lower federal courts have found that private individuals can challenge these Medicaid funding decisions in court.

“States may not terminate providers from their Medicaid program for any reason they see fit, especially when that reason is unrelated to the provider's competence and the quality of the health care it provides,” a panel of judges on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last February.

According to CNN, Kansas and Louisiana had moved to terminate Medicaid contracts with those affiliates after an edited video from an anti-abortion group in 2014 showed officials from Planned Parenthood Federation of America appeared to be discussing the price of fetal tissue.

Lawyers for Kansas said in their court brief that the lower court ruling permitted “millions of Medicaid beneficiaries the ability to go directly to federal court to challenge a state's determination that their provider is not ‘qualified’ — bypassing layers of state administrative review.”

Planned Parenthood had argued that the state terminated Medicaid agreements with two affiliates “without cause.”

Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood, praised the Supreme Court for deciding to leave the lower court rulings in place, HuffPosts reports.

“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. We won’t stop fighting for every patient who relies on Planned Parenthood for life-saving, life-changing care,” Wen said.