Planned Parenthood is once again sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong. And thus far, courts have allowed it to do so.
But now the U.S. Supreme Court has the opportunity to weigh in.
The case, Baker v. Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, asks whether third parties like Planned Parenthood can interfere in contracts between the federal government and the states. Its implications are far-reaching, threatening huge financial consequences for states—and, ultimately, for taxpayers like you and me.
That’s why 137 members of Congress, 87 state legislators, and 19 states—among others—filed friend-of-the-court briefs asking the Supreme Court to hear this case and make it clear that third parties cannot meddle in contracts between the federal government and the states.
When Congress passed the Medicaid Act, it created a contract between the federal government and participating states. Under this contract, the federal government provides states with Medicaid funding, and states have the authority to run their own programs within certain broad federal guidelines, including deciding which providers are qualified to receive funding.
With this authority, the State of South Carolina decided that providers who perform abortions, such as Planned Parenthood, are “unqualified” to received Medicaid funding. As the state legislators explain in their brief:
The State of South Carolina has public policy interests in promoting life, in ensuring that taxpayer dollars do not fund abortions, and in ensuring that providers of family planning services that receive state funding do not contravene those interests.
Providers classified as “unqualified” are not left without recourse, however.
In fact, Congress laid out options for these providers. A provider deemed “unqualified” could use the state’s administrative appeals process to challenge the decision. Or it could ask the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to review it. If the federal government disagrees with the state’s decision, it can limit or cut off the state’s funding.
But Planned Parenthood completely ignored those options. Instead, Planned Parenthood and one of its clients took matters into their own hands and sued the state in federal court. Only after South Carolina objected that Planned Parenthood should have filed an administrative appeal did Planned Parenthood finally file that appeal—one day after their 30-day deadline. So now they’re relying on the federal courts to force South Carolina to give them what they want, and so far those courts have obliged.
In their friend-of-the-court briefs, various Congressmembers, South Carolina legislators, and states explained two key reasons why this presents a huge problem.
1. It opens the door for third parties to meddle in contracts between the federal and state governments.
The whole idea of a contract is for two parties to reach an agreement about their rights and responsibilities in relation to each other. If third parties—i.e., people who don’t sign the contract and so don’t agree to be bound by it—can sue to enforce their own interpretation of it, that upsets the bargain between the actual parties and unfairly punishes them. The federal government gives states broad authority to administer their Medicaid programs to best serve their citizens. But under Planned Parenthood’s theory, a court can take that authority away. So when a state like South Carolina tries to protect its citizens from unqualified providers, those providers can haul the state into federal court.
2. It exposes states—and by extension, taxpayers—to burdensome legal fees, taking resources away from people who need them.
As the 19 states explain in their brief, allowing third parties to interfere in contracts between the federal government and the states “exposes States to costly federal litigation.” These costs can be significant, as the brief of the Members of Congress points out: “The costs of class actions to enforce Medicaid provisions have been enormous. The cases can take years to resolve…. Defense costs can run in the millions.”
Did you catch that? Allowing third parties like Planned Parenthood to meddle in contracts between the federal government and the states could expose states to millions of dollars in financial burdens. That burden will either be shouldered by taxpayers themselves or by the needy individuals and families who rely on Medicaid for help.
That’s why it is so important for the Supreme Court to review this case.
Planned Parenthood is not above the law. And it has no place meddling in a contract between the federal government and the states.
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