WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is avoiding a high-profile case by rejecting appeals from Kansas and Louisiana in their effort to strip Medicaid money from Planned Parenthood over the dissenting votes of three justices.
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Lower courts in both states had blocked the states from withholding money that is used for health services for low-income women. The money is not used for abortions. Abortion opponents have said Planned Parenthood should not receive any government money because of heavily edited videos that claimed to show the nation’s largest abortion provider profiting from sales of fetal tissue for medical research.
Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer says he regrets the Court's decision, noting that it fell just one vote short of the four needed for the Justices to hear the case.
“My support of the pro-life movement will not be diminished by today’s development, and I look forward to future victories in defense of the right to life,” Colyer said.
Investigations sparked by the videos in several states didn’t result in criminal charges.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said they would have heard the case.
It takes four votes on the nine-justice court to grant review, so neither Chief Justice John Roberts nor new Justice Brett Kavanaugh was willing to join their conservative colleagues to hear the Medicaid funding challenge.
Thomas wrote for the three dissenters that the court seems to be ducking a case it should decide because it involves Planned Parenthood. “But these cases are not about abortion rights,” Thomas wrote.
It's a turn of events some say was unexpected. One of those people is pro-choice founder and CEO of the Wichita based Trust Women Foundation Julie Burkhardt.
"When people are coming in to see us no matter for what they should be able to use their Medicaid insurance that is issued at the state level," Burkhardt said.
Kansans for Life Executive Director Mary Kay Culp says women with Medicaid can find those service elsewhere.
"There are 20 times more places in Kansas county health clinics and other clinics that serve indigent women," Culp said.
The issue is who has the right to challenge a state’s Medicaid funding decisions, private individuals or only the federal government. The states say that the Medicaid program, a joint venture of federal and state governments to provide health care to poorer Americans, makes clear that only the Secretary of Health and Human Services can intervene, by withholding money from a state.