The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to review lower court decisions that blocked efforts in two states to cut off public funding for Planned Parenthood, refusing for now to get involved in state battles over abortion rights.

The cases did not touch on abortion itself, but three justices who said the court should have accepted the cases said that was the reason the court declined to get involved.

“What explains the court’s refusal to do its job here? I suspect it has something to do with the fact that some respondents in these cases are named ‘Planned Parenthood,’ ” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote.

The court’s action showed a split among the panel’s conservatives, and might indicate a reluctance by the majority to take on controversial cases at a time when the Supreme Court is in the political spotlight.

Thomas was joined in his opinion by fellow conservative justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch.

But it takes four justices to accept a case, and two other court conservatives, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, did not join Thomas’s opinion.


The court has been considering whether to accept the cases since September.

The issue has to do with whether individual Medicaid recipients who receive services from providers such as Planned Parenthood have a right to challenge a state’s decision to cut off funding to the providers.

Five regional courts of appeal have said they do, while one has said they do not. That is the kind of split that normally prompts the Supreme Court to act, and Thomas said that is what the court should have done.

“It is true that these particular cases arose after several states alleged that Planned Parenthood affiliates had, among other things, engaged in ‘the illegal sale of fetal organs’ and ‘fraudulent billing practices,’ and thus removed Planned Parenthood as a state Medicaid provider,” Thomas wrote.

“But these cases are not about abortion rights. They are about private rights of action under the Medicaid Act. Resolving the question presented here would not even affect Planned Parenthood’s ability to challenge the states’ decisions.”

One case was from Kansas, the other from Louisiana.


Planned Parenthood had told the high court that it was not necessary to review the lower court decisions at this time.

“Every person has a fundamental right to health care, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much they earn,” Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.

“As a doctor, I have seen what’s at stake when people cannot access the care they need, and when politics gets in the way of people making their own health care choices. We won’t stop fighting for every patient who relies on Planned Parenthood for lifesaving, life-changing care.”

Abortion opponents said they hope the court will take up the issue in future cases.

“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,’ ” said Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life. “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.”

The cases are Gee v. Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast and Andersen v. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

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