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Thomas Dissents to Rejecting Planned Parenthood Defunding Circuit Split

By George Khoury, Esq. on December 10, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A pair of cases seeking certiorari to resolve a circuit split, despite involving states choosing to defund Planned Parenthood via Medicaid spending, did not garner enough interest among the Justices to be accepted. Technically, the case is about whether Medicaid provides a private right of action, but Justice Clarence Thomas clearly believes there's so much more, or maybe not, to it.

Justice Thomas, joined by Justices Alito and Gorsuch, published a dissent (scroll to the end), lambasting their colleagues for not doing their jobs to fix the circuit split over a procedural matter. Justice Thomas explains that he disapproves of the other Justices for not taking up the issue because it involves Planned Parenthood and thus is highly controversial and tangentially related to abortion rights.

No, really, he pretty much flat out said that.

What Did Thomas Say?

Justice Thomas may have a bit of a reputation for being more of a radical than a conservative, but this dissent is more scathing criticism than a logical retort.

He starts by explaining one of the primary functions of the High Court is to resolve circuit splits. Then he explains that the cases at issue present such a split. Then he goes on to basically say the reason the other Justices voted against it was because it involved Planned Parenthood:

"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." "

His choice of wording is rather peculiar as he suspects rather than knows, yet seems to be really putting the other Justices on blast. He goes on to say:

"Some tenuous connection to a politically fraught issue does not justify abdicating our judicial duty."

And while there may be quite a bit of truth to the last statement, it doesn't seem that Justice Thomas provides anything other a suspicion that the other Justices didn't want to hear the case because of the tangential relationship to abortion rights.

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