Supreme Court declines to hear state defenses of defunding Planned Parenthood
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WASHINGTON, D.C., December 10, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The United States Supreme Court will not hear Kansas and Louisiana’s appeals defending their efforts to cut off Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood, effectively forcing taxpayer funding of abortion to continue and signaling similar pro-life efforts in other states will fail.
Both states tried to disqualify the abortion giant from the program in response to the 2015 revelation that the organization was harvesting and selling the organs of aborted babies, but have been tied up in court by pro-abortion lawsuits. The Supreme Court was their last recourse, but on Monday the justices declined to take up the case, Reuters reports.
It only takes the votes of four justices to hear a case, which most assumed would be a given with President Donald Trump having appointed two new justices to form what has widely been called a 5-4 conservative majority. But only Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Trump’s first nominee Neil Gorsuch voted to take the case.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Trump’s second nominee Brett Kavanaugh "likely have serious objections" to how the case has been handled so far, CNN Supreme Court analyst Steve Vladeck surmised. "But such votes seem to be a signal that they would rather avoid contentious, high-profile disputes for now, at least where possible."
That reasoning wasn’t good enough for Thomas, the court’s most conservative justice.
“One of this Court’s primary functions is to resolve ‘important matter[s]’ on which the courts of appeals are ‘in conflict,’” he explained in a dissenting opinion joined by Alito and Gorsuch. The case “present[s] a conflict on a federal question with significant implications: whether Medicaid recipients have a private right of action to challenge a State’s determination of ‘qualified’ Medicaid providers [...] This question is important and recurring.”
“Because of this Court’s inaction, patients in different States—even patients with the same providers—have different rights to challenge their State’s provider decisions,” Thomas continued. “The question presented also affects the rights of the States,” which are dissaded from making policy decisions they believe to be in the public interest by threats of costly and complex lawsuits.
“So what explains the Court’s refusal to do its job here?” Thomas asked. “I suspect it has something to do with the fact that some respondents in these cases are named ‘Planned Parenthood.’” Thomas found this “particularly troubling,” because the central questions of the case would not have affected the legality of abortion itself.
“Some tenuous connection to a politically fraught issue does not justify abdicating our judicial duty. If anything, neutrally applying the law is all the more important when political issues are in the background,” Thomas argued, noting that the Founding Fathers gave Supreme Court justices lifetime tenure precisely so they could ignore such considerations entirely.
“We are responsible for the confusion among the lower courts, and it is our job to fix it,” Thomas concluded.
“AUL is disappointed that the Court declined to hear argument in these cases, and we join the dissent in calling on the Court to ‘do its duty,’” Americans United for Life President Catherine Glenn Foster responded to the news. “But the good news is that there are other similar cases pending in lower courts, which may give the Supreme Court another opportunity to decide this important issue.”
Roberts has disillusioned pro-lifers ever since he voted in 2012 and 2015 to uphold Obamacare using intensely controversial reasoning. Today’s announcement was also the first major abortion test of Trump’s appointees, both of whom were question marks on the issue during their confirmation hearings.
Both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh refused to answer whether Roe v. Wade was rightly decided or whether they would vote to overturn it, instead saying it was entitled to respectful consideration as longstanding precedent. Pro-abortion Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine went so far as to endorse Kavanaugh in large part because she was confident he would uphold Roe.
Nevertheless, most national pro-life organizations endorsed both nominees shortly after they were announced, with several leaders arguing their answers were diplomatically phrased to navigate a narrowly-divided Senate.
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