UPDATED 12:30 P.M. EST
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal from two states seeking to block public funding to Planned Parenthood.
The justices opted not to review lower court rulings that allowed Planned Parenthood to fight laws passed in Louisiana and Kansas that stripped its Medicaid funding for services provided to low-income women unrelated to abortions.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented, saying they would have heard the cases.
Fellow conservative justices John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh sided with liberal justices in rejecting the appeals. Four justices are needed to hear a case.
The Supreme Court’s decision to reject the cases effectively allows individual Medicaid recipients to file lawsuits against states that have removed Planned Parenthood from its list of qualified Medicaid providers.
Some conservative states did so in the wake of viral videos allegedly showing Planned Parenthood employees peddling fetal organs — videos and accusations that have been investigated and discredited.
In his dissent, Thomas wrote the court had a responsibility to resolve the question of whether Medicaid recipients have the right to challenge a state’s list of qualified Medicaid providers. Five of six appeals courts have ruled they do.
The discrepancy of lower court rulings — not the rights of Planned Parenthood or the issue of abortion — was why the Supreme Court should have heard the case, according to Thomas.
“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 wrote.
He went on to write the court’s decision was likely driven by a desire to distance itself from the issue of abortion — even if the cases had nothing to do with it.
“I suspect it has something to do with the fact that some respondents in these cases are named ‘Planned Parenthood’,” Thomas wrote. “Some tenuous connection to a politically fraught issue does not justify abdicating our judicial duty.”
The rejected cases were Andersen v. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, 17-1340, and Gee v. Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast Inc., 17-1492.