Supreme Court Could Accept Its First Abortion Case with Kavanaugh on the Bench

The Supreme Court is currently deciding if it will weigh in on a longstanding battle over whether states can block funds to Planned Parenthood.

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Oct 26 2018, 5:05pm

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh could soon get the opportunity to rule on his first abortion-related case, as the court decides whether it will hear a case on Planned Parenthood funding.

The Supreme Court could announce its decision as soon as Friday, according to the Los Angeles Times. If the justices accept it, the court would hand down a definitive ruling on one of the longstanding battles between states and abortion clinics.

This particular case comes from the Eighth Circuit Court, where, last year, judges blocked a mandate from Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who planned to cut off all Medicaid funds from Planned Parenthood clinics in the state.

States' right to withhold Medicaid funds from Planned Parenthood has been a divisive issue among the lower courts, making it ripe for the Supreme Court to rule on. If the justices affirmed states' rights to block Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood, it could severely diminish women's access to reproductive health and abortion services in states which decide to exercise those rights, as Medicaid reimbursements help make up about 60 percent of Planned Parenthood's total funding.

“These cases have gone under the radar, but they are very significant,” Steven Aden, the legal director for the anti-abortion organization Americans United for Life, told the LA Times. We think they have a pretty good shot this time. It would be a step in the right direction.”

Kavanaugh's recent confirmation to the Supreme Court has reinvigorated anti-abortion activists, who believe he could be the deciding vote in an eventual ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade. Though a ruling on the Eighth Circuit Court case wouldn't completely overturn the landmark abortion rights law, it would undermine it.

If Kavanaugh doesn't end up getting the chance to decide on this case, there are more than a dozen other abortion-related cases that could come before his bench in the next year. Despite Kavanaugh's more recent assurances that Roe v. Wade is "settled," abortion rights activists feel certain they know how he'll rule on reproductive health issues, largely due to a long anti-choice record as a D.C.-circuit federal judge and as a White House lawyer in the George W. Bush administration.

In October 2017, Kavanaugh tried to block a pregnant immigrant teen from obtaining an abortion, writing in his dissenting opinion that he believed "the government has permissible interests in favoring fetal life." And in a private email in March 2003 in response to the idea that Roe v. Wade was "settled law", Kavanaugh wrote: “I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so.”

"For people seeking an abortion, any erosion of this right has a devastating, real-world impact," Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in an August statement ahead of Kavanaugh's confirmation. "It is the difference between accessing an abortion or going without."

She continued: “Kavanaugh’s record says it all: If given the chance, he would turn the balance of the Supreme Court against women’s constitutional right to abortion in this country."