Since President Donald Trump took office in 2017, state-sponsored efforts to defund Planned Parenthood have been threatening to severely limit Americans’ access to crucial health care. But in a ruling today, December 10th, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with reproductive rights.
CNN reports that SCOTUS voted not to review two lower court decisions that declared it illegal for states to block Planned Parenthood affiliate offices from receiving Medicaid funds. Four justices’ votes were required to review the decision, but Chief Justice John Roberts and new Justice Brett Kavanaugh voted with the court’s left-leaning justices to let the rulings stand.
According to CNN, the Planned Parenthood affiliate offices protected in this decision focus on preventive care (like cancer screenings) and do not provide abortions. But Kansas and Louisiana previously tried to end their Medicaid contracts with these providers after an anti-abortion group published a discredited video that alleged the health care organization was selling fetal tissue.
Politico notes that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Kansas in February, declaring that states can’t defund health care providers for reasons “unrelated to the provider’s competence and the quality of the healthcare it provides.” Four other appellate courts have reached similar decisions. But in a separate case, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that states can cut ties with a Medicaid provider.
According to SCOTUSblog, Justice Clarence Thomas, who authored the dissenting opinion, argued that the Supreme Court should have reviewed the case because appellate courts were split on the matter. He complained that the issue was not related to abortion and wrote that a “tenuous connection to a politically fraught issue” shouldn’t prevent the court from hearing these cases.
At least for now it looks like Planned Parenthood will remain safe. We just hope it stays that way.