'Deep Division' in Planned Parenthood Ruling

By William Vogeler, Esq. on December 01, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Facing a stalemate, a federal appeals court let stand a ruling that continues Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood in Louisiana.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals split 7-7 on whether to reconsider a decision in favor of Planned Parenthood. The organization, which provides abortion services, had sued after the former governor tried to block the funding.

In Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast v. Gee, the en banc panel of judges divided sharply. The vote is a harbinger of more litigation in other states, but the court itself will change before that happens.

"Deepens the Division"

Judge Jennifer Elrod said the split decision "deepens the division in the courts of appeals on an issue of great importance." The issue is whether a state can disqualify a health care provider for Medicaid.

Elrod, in a dissent joined by six other judges, said the opposing jurists allowed Planned Parenthood to get around the state's requirements. She called it "dismaying" and "disjointed," and observed there was an elephant in the room:

"Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast chose to forego its administrative remedies prior to filing this lawsuit."

The hotly debated decision came as President Donald Trump has nominated new justices to the court. One is Kyle Duncan, who has defended Louisiana's abortion restrictions, the Associated Press reported.

Changing Court

Trump has made four Fifth Circuit nominations, portending a change in the balance of the federal judiciary.

The 17-judge circuit covers Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. It is the smallest of the three states with a population of just under 3 million, while Louisiana has almost 5 million, and Texas has about 28 million.

As the president continues to make appointments, the pendulum will swing to the Republican side. He has already appointed far more federal judges than the last two administrations in the same time period.

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