By Katie Franklin
Last month, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Louisiana and Texas can cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood facilities. The ruling—a major win for pro-lifers in the 5th Circuit—could also have major ramifications for Indiana and the rest of the United States.
Almost a decade ago, Indiana became the first state to defund Planned Parenthood of federal Medicaid dollars. Sadly, that historic feat ended in litigation from Planned Parenthood, a loss at the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012, and the Supreme Court declining to hear the case in 2013.
The story seemed to be over for Indiana’s defunding effort, but as the years passed, other pro-life states took Indiana’s strategy and ran with it. In 2015, David Daleidan’s undercover investigation of Planned Parenthood’s stomach-turning practices lit a new fire under states’ efforts to defund the entity of taxpayer dollars.
More legislation and litigation ensued, and by 2018, the Supreme Court was asked to consider whether Medicaid recipients like Planned Parenthood have a right to challenge a state’s determination of “qualified” Medicaid providers.
Again, the Court declined to take up the case.
In his dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justices Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito, argued that the Court was shirking its responsibility. By this point, a split had arisen between circuits and, as Thomas argued, it was the Supreme Court’s duty to settle the matter.
“Five Circuits have held that Medicaid recipients have such a right, and one Circuit has held that they do not,” wrote Justice Thomas. “The last three Circuits to consider the question have themselves been divided. This question is important and recurring.”
So recurring, in fact, that this October, the Supreme Court once again declined to hear a case on the matter. (Notably, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill led 19 other states in filing an amicus brief with the Court, urging them to take up the case.)
But just six weeks later, the 5th Circuit issued its decision reversing a previous ruling preventing Texas and Louisiana from defunding Planned Parenthood of Medicaid dollars.
Now, the split Thomas described almost two years ago is deeper than it was before.
And the duty of the Supreme Court to take up this issue—raised by Indiana almost ten years ago—is all the more clear.
Since Indiana’s law was signed and struck down a decade ago, Hoosiers have been forced to channel their taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood. This is despite the fact that the vast majority of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion. This is despite the fact that Planned Parenthood outposts performed more than half of Indiana’s abortions in 2019, making it the largest abortion business in the state.
Indeed, in 2019, Planned Parenthood facilities performed 4,414 abortions. Since 2014, these facilities have performed more than 30,000 abortions altogether, according to the Indiana Department of Health’s Terminated Pregnancy Reports.
Planned Parenthood frequently (and misleadingly) argues that abortions make up a small percentage of their services, but these numbers are far from small. Still, even if Planned Parenthood performed a few abortions per year, the practice would remain intolerable and deserving of swift defunding.
States like Indiana should be allowed to ensure that result.