The Supreme Court declined Monday to review rulings that blocked two states from defunding Planned Parenthood.
With four justices required to take on the case, it was Brett Kavanaugh’s vote to leave lower court rulings intact that resulted in the Supreme Court passing on the case. The ruling in question was one made by a pair of federal appeals courts that allowed Planned Parenthood to sue Kansas and Louisiana when the state legislatures decided to cut Medicaid funding for providers.
The case dates back to 2014, when a group known as the Center for Medical Progress failed to dupe Planned Parenthood into selling fetal tissue—an anti-abortion activist pretended to be an executive of a made-up company and the conversations were being secretly recorded the whole time, as they were part of CMP’s plan to entrap Planned Parenthood. This resulted in a slew of state and federal investigations, none of which found Planned Parenthood did anything wrong. It also ended with the two CMP weirdos behind the scheme being charged with 15 felonies in California for conspiracy and recording people without their consent.
After the videos were released, the state legislatures in Kansas and Louisiana attempted to use them as grounds for cutting off public funding for their local Planned Parenthood branches. In 2017, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at New Orleans ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood with a 7-7 split. A federal appeals court in Kansas followed suit and shot down the state’s attempt to gut Planned Parenthood this past February. This led to a pair of appeals filed to the Supreme Court, Andersen v. Planned Parenthood and Gee v. Planned Parenthood, in which the departments of health in Kansas and Louisiana attempted to argue that states should retain the right to defund Planned Parenthood and similar institutions. It’s worth pointing out that despite attempts by the Center for Medical Progress and the state legislatures in Kansas and Louisiana to insinuate otherwise, none of this had anything to do with abortion; it centers on Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Samuel Alito all wanted to hear the case; unfortunately for those ghouls, with Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts voting to pass, they were one vote short and instead signed their names onto the dissent. In the dissent, Thomas pondered whether the remaining five justices were avoiding the case simply because it involved Planned Parenthood.
“So what explains the Court’s refusal to do its job here?” Thomas wrote. “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.”
Thomas’s final assessment here is correct—the case had nothing, directly, to do with abortion. It was always about conservative state legislatures trying to find a way to void their contracts with Planned Parenthood, and the federal courts telling them time and again that, actually, their already-underfunded state programs designed to provide health services to low-income women could not be cut out altogether. Gotta love state politics.