Phew! Anyone holding her breath about how Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh would decide on women’s rights issues can exhale—tentatively. On December 10, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case brought by Kansas and Louisiana that sought to squash Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood and other women’s reproductive health services providers. While three conservative justices would have allowed the case to proceed, Justice Kavanaugh, along with fellow conservative Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s four liberal justices, shut it down.
This decision helps recast the court as the nonpartisan entity it is intended to be.
The case, an attempt to block Medicaid funding for such basic services as vaccines, cancer screening, and prenatal care for low-income women, did not involve federal money for abortion, which is barred by law. It dates back to 2015, when largely discredited videos trying to depict Planned Parenthood as purveyors of fetal tissue were released by an anti-choice group. Swayed by the bogus clips, several states pulled the plug on Medicaid provider agreements with Planned Parenthood and similar organizations, which in turn sued—and won. The Supreme Court, in refusing to hear the states’ appeals, upheld the lower courts’ findings.
A Right to Healthcare
Following the ugly nature of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, complicated disturbingly by several women accusing him of sexual misconduct and further fueling the nation’s divisiveness, this decision helps recast the court as the nonpartisan entity it is intended to be. As Justice Elena Kagan stated in October: “An incredibly important thing for the court to guard is this reputation of being fair, of being impartial, of being neutral, and not being simply an extension of the terribly polarized political process and environment that we live in.”
“Every person has a fundamental right to health care, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much they earn,” Leana Wen, MD, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in regard to the victory. “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 life-saving, life-changing care.”