Conservatives were cheering when Justice Brett Kavanaugh was finally confirmed after a tumultuous process that polarized the nation. Leftists argued that Kavanaugh’s confirmation would be the end for women’s rights to make choices about abortions, among other things, even before the confirmation turned into a high school sexual assault circus.
Instead of hearing arguments in his first major abortion-related case since taking the bench, Kavanaugh sided with Chief Justice John Roberts and the four left-leaning Supreme Court Justices to decline to review it. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch all wanted to hear the case, but it takes four.
According to Thomas, the move was political.
In February, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that Kansas was wrong to to end Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding, writing that states can’t cut off funding for reasons “unrelated to the provider’s competence and the quality of the healthcare it provides.” Four other appeals courts have ruled that Medicaid patients have the right to access the provider of their choice.
But the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has held that states do have the right to terminate a provider’s Medicaid contract and that residents cannot challenge that decision.
The Supreme Court’s action Monday allows the split decisions to stand in different federal circuits. Thomas, in his dissent, wrote that the Supreme Court should have taken the cases to resolve conflicting findings from lower courts.
“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.
Thomas is right. This is the type of case that is ideal for the Supreme Court to resolve the rights of individuals, who are currently bound by different laws in different states. The majority of the time, this isn’t a bad thing. States can and should act differently from one another. However, when it comes to a person’s right to challenge a federal funding, which Medicaid is in part, there needs to be clear direction from the Supreme Court.
As Thomas noted, the reasons for punting on this issue were clear.
“So 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.’ That makes the Court’s decision particularly troubling, as the question presented has nothing to do with abortion,” Thomas wrote.
This case had nothing to do with abortion, at least not directly. It was about the rights of the people to challenge how their tax dollars were spent, a fundamental right that drills down to the core of our republic. The mere mention of Planned Parenthood, even outside of the abortion issue, was enough to spook Justice Kavanaugh. He joins Chief Justice Roberts and Republicans on Capitol Hill who are so terrified of Planned Parenthood, they refuse to address the issue even at its most basic level.
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