Supreme Court decides not to hear cases involving state efforts to defund Planned Parenthood

The US Supreme Court today declined to hear cases involving state efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. Three Justices (Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch) dissented from the denial of certiorari. The dissenters said the Court should have granted review to address the important legal issue the cases presented–whether there is a private right of action under the Medicaid Act. The lower court rulings enabled Medicaid recipients to challenge state determinations of “qualified” Medicaid providers under federal law. The dissenters thought the Court declined review because various Planned Parenthood affiliates brought the challenges. The dissenters noted, however, that the legal question presented “has nothing to do with abortion.” The dissenting opinion further noted that “Some tenuous connection to a politically fraught issue does not justify abdicating our judicial duty.” Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kavanaugh voted with the majority to decline review.

As noted, the cases did not deal with abortion directly and so one should not read too much into the Court’s denial of review. It may be though, as the dissent suggested, that the Court wanted to avoid a case with sensitive political implications. This suggests that the Court may, for the moment at least, not take up cases dealing with the right to abortion.


Amicus Briefs filed urging US Supreme Court to hear Indiana abortion case

Here is a link to an article discussing amicus briefs that were recently filed urging the United States Supreme Court to review the federal court of appeals decision striking down Indiana’s abortion statute.  The Indiana law prohibits abortions when the doctor knows that the sole reason for the abortion is the race, sex, or disability condition; the law also regulates the disposition of fetal remains.

Here is a link where all of the court filings are available. More than a dozen amicus briefs have been filed with the Supreme Court. Briefs have been filed on behalf of 19 states and by various pro-life and disability groups. The groups filing briefs include Americans United for Life, the Susan B. Anthony List, and the Fondation Jerome Lejeune (this brief was prepared by the Bioethics Defense Fund).

Update on Challenge to California Assisted Suicide Law

Here is a link to story about a decision by an appellate court in California dismissing a suit challenging the constitutionality of California’s law allowing assisted suicide. Because it concluded that the plaintiffs lacked standing, the court did not rule on the constitutionality of the California  law. A state trial judge had held the law unconstitutional because the statute was passed at a legislative session dealing with health care funding and health care services. The trial court judge concluded that the assisted suicide law was not within the scope of the legislative session because he didn’t think that allowing access to suicide related to health care funding or to improving the health of Californians.

Judge Invalidates Mississippi Law Banning Abortions After 15 Weeks

Here is a link to a story about a recent decision by a federal judge invalidating Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks. The judge noted that if it wants to overturn Roe v. Wade then the state will “have to seek that relief from a higher court.” It seems likely that the state of Mississippi will try to do just that.

Judge Carlton Reeves’s opinion is almost beyond belief. Under existing law, his ruling is not a surprise. But the opinion contains some rather stunning observations. I’ll mention just one such observation. Judge Reeves seems to accept Justice Blackmun’s view that history demonstrates that there was a historical recognition of the right to an abortion. This historical account is deeply flawed, as many scholars have made clear. Despite Justice Blackmun’s efforts to argue to the contrary, John Keown’s scholarship makes clear that “Roe’s invention of a constitutional right to abortion represented a radical rejection of America’s longstanding history and traditions.”


AMA Continues Discussion of Assisted Suicide

From the National Right to Life News, here is a report on the American Medical Association’s continued discussion of assisted suicide. This is a critical debate because the views of major medical organizations often carry considerable weight in considering whether to legalize assisted suicide.

“Trump Administration issues Final Rules Protecting Conscience Rights in Health Insurance”

Here is a link to a news release from HHS discussing the Final Rules issued by the Trump Administration dealing with conscience rights.  The Final Rules were issued on November 7, 2018. This is the latest development in a long running saga that goes back to the Obama Administration’s regulations that required health plans and insurers to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods (including methods that many view as abortifacients) and sterilization procedures. Those with conscientious objections to these requirements have challenged these mandates. These challenges led to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case. The controversy has continued and the Trump Administration has now issued final rules addressing the issue. One rule provides an exemption to entities that object on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs. The other rule extends the exemption to nonprofits and small businesses that have non-religious moral objections to covering certain services.  The final rules will take effect in January 2019.