Supreme Court sides with Planned Parenthood, declines to take case

The Supreme Court on Monday refused appeals from two states looking to end funding to Planned Parenthood, striking a blow to abortion foes.

The decision leaves in place lower court rulings that blocked Louisiana and Kansas from banning Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from the states' Medicaid programs.

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The states banned Planned Parenthood from their programs after videos emerged in 2015 alleging the group and its affiliates were profiting from the sale of fetal tissue for research purposes. Investigations in several states found no wrongdoing on Planned Parenthood's part.

Planned Parenthood sued over the decisions, arguing federal law gives Medicaid recipients the right to choose to receive their medical care from any qualified and willing provider.

State officials had appealed to the Supreme Court after lower courts sided with Planned Parenthood and their patients under the argument that private individuals don't have the right to sue over changes to the Medicaid program.

Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justices Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito, dissented, writing that the court should have taken the cases. Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Susan Collins raises M in second quarter fundraising, surpassing 2014 reelection bid The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic infighting threatens 2020 unity MORE did not sign on to the dissenting opinion.

“Five Circuits have held that Medicaid recipients have such a right, and one Circuit has held that they do not,” Thomas wrote. “The last three Circuits to consider the question have themselves been divided.”

Thomas said the Supreme Court is the entity that created the confusion and its justices should clear it up.

“So what explains the Court’s refusal to do its job here?” he asked. “I suspect it has something to do with the fact that some respondents in these cases are named ‘Planned Parenthood.’ That makes the Court’s decision particularly troubling, as the question presented has nothing to do with abortion.”

At least four of the nine justices need to agree to hear an appeal in order for it to be taken up.

Planned Parenthood cheered the Monday decision as a win for patients in Louisiana and Kansas.

“We are pleased that lower court rulings protecting patients remain in place," said Dr. Leana Wen, Planned Parenthood's president. "Every person has a fundamental right to health care, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much they earn."

The Supreme Court's decision avoids what would certainly have been a high-profile case that would have tested the court's new conservative majority.

Updated at 11:34 a.m.