By Pete Williams, NBC News
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday left lower court victories intact for Planned Parenthood in a legal battle with states over access by Medicaid patients to the group's services.
The dispute did not involve abortion, but the action by the justices keeps a hot-button political issue off the docket. Three of the court's conservatives said the court should have taken the case.
After an anti-abortion group released videos in 2015 that purported to show officials from Planned Parenthood talking about selling fetal tissue, several states immediately terminated Medicaid provider agreements with the group's affiliates. The videos were largely discredited, but the states involved said they found the allegations troubling.
Medicaid patients in Kansas and Louisiana, two of the states that took action against Planned Parenthood, claimed the states violated Medicaid's requirement that patients must be free to seek their health care from any qualified and willing provider. They sued, and lower federal courts found in their favor, entering injunctions that ordered those states to lift their bans.
In declining to take up the states' appeals, the Supreme Court's action on Monday leaves those lower court victories for the Medicaid patients in place.
Planned Parenthood offers Medicaid patients vaccines, wellness examinations, screening for breast and cervical cancer, contraception services and pregnancy testing. But abortion is not offered, because federal funds cannot pay for them except in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment. The Kansas affiliate said it provides "essential medical care for hundreds of low-income Kansans each year."
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