The US Supreme Court has rejected an anti-abortion group’s appeal to force the federal government to disclose confidential records about a $1 million contract it made with Planned Parenthood in New Hampshire in 2011.
On Monday, the nine Supreme Court justices let stand a February ruling that allowed the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to withhold some documents in a freedom of information suit filed by New Hampshire Right to Life, an organization that opposes abortion.
The government had already disclosed some information regarding the contract, but the group sought more – including a document that explains how Planned Parenthood operates its clinics.
The decision is the latest development in the saga surrounding Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions in addition to health services for women. A series of videos produced by an anti-abortion group over the summer claimed to show that Planned Parenthood illegally sells fetal tissue to researchers for profit, leading to calls by Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion activists for an end to federal funding of health clinics run by the organization.
Planned Parenthood has denied the accusations, saying the videos were edited to be misleading and the group said that it acted legally in seeking reimbursement from researchers for post-abortion fetal tissue. The group receives about $500 million in federal funds every year, mostly in reimbursements through the Medicaid health insurance program.
The issue has divided Congress along party lines, with the Republican-dominated House of Representatives in September passing a bill that would block federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood. As The Christian Science Monitor reported at the time:
The bill by Rep. Diane Black (R) Tennessee, would shift Planned Parenthood’s federal payments to thousands of community health centers, which Republicans say would take on displaced patients.
Democrats said those community clinics are already overburdened and far away from the women who need them.
Both sides have accused the other of using the issue for political gain.
The latest Supreme Court ruling came amid dissent from the court’s two conservative justices, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. In a joint statement, the pair wrote that the decision “perpetuates an unsupported interpretation” of the federal Freedom of Information Act.
The high court's decision not to hear the dispute came days after the justices agreed on Friday to hear a challenge by abortion providers to parts of a strict, Republican-backed Texas law they claim seeks to shutter abortion clinics. It would be the court’s first major abortion case since 2007.
This report contains material from The Associated Press and Reuters.