A surprising turn of events from the Supreme Court this morning, in which the justices declined to hear a case brought by Kansas and Louisiana that would have huge implications for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. Lower courts ruled that states cannot block groups like Planned Parenthood from Medicaid programs. And on Monday, the Supreme Court declined to review the case, meaning that the lower court ruling will stand.
It’s a significant victory for Planned Parenthood and they have a surprising person to thank for it: Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the newest addition the Supreme Court, whose appointment was widely seen as a major boon for pro-life groups — perhaps without justification. Kavanaugh joined Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s four liberal justices in voting to turn away the two petitions from Kansas and Louisiana.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch voted to review the case, but it takes four votes to accept a case. Thomas accused his colleagues of being too nervous to touch the politically fraught issue of abortion, and said that the real heart of the case wasn’t about abortion rights, but whether or not individuals should be able to challenge which services are paid for by Medicaid programs.
The anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List expressed disappointment with the decision.
“The pro-life citizens of states like Kansas and Louisiana, through their elected representatives, have clearly expressed their will: they do not want Medicaid tax dollars used to prop up abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood,” said SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser in a statement.
According to a provision known as the Hyde Amendment, no federal dollars can be used to fund abortions, but federal money can be used for places like Planned Parenthood that offer a variety of services including abortion, as long as those funds aren’t used for abortion except in extreme cases like incest or rape. That distinction has led to several bitter court battles, and has made defunding Planned Parenthood a major goal of anti-abortion groups.