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US Supreme Court rejects SC's effort to cut off public funding for Planned Parenthood

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A Planned Parenthood clinic West Ashley. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a years-long effort by South Carolina leaders to cut off public funding for two Planned Parenthood clinics that provide abortions in the Palmetto State.

The country's highest court declined to consider an appeal in which Gov. Henry McMaster sought to remove two Planned Parenthood clinics — one in Charleston and one in Columbia — from the state's Medicaid network.

The high court, in essence, upheld previous rulings that prevent South Carolina from shutting off government reimbursements to Planned Parenthood clinics that treat Medicaid patients, the health insurance program for the poor.

"The governor was certainly hoping the Supreme Court would hear the case, but his resolve to make sure no taxpayer dollars either directly or indirectly subsidize abortions in South Carolina is steadfast," McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes said Tuesday. "This isn't over. We will continue to appeal the decision on the merits to the appellate court and beyond, if necessary."

In a written statement Tuesday, Planned Parenthood celebrated the Supreme Court's decision but cautioned there are at least two dozen other pending cases that threaten access to reproductive health care across the country.

“Today’s Supreme Court order leaves in place a ruling that makes clear what we have long said: blocking people with low incomes from choosing the provider they know and trust is unlawful," wrote Helene Krasnoff, vice president of public policy litigation and law at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Medicaid pays for abortions only in situations where the pregnancy threatens the mother's life or resulted from rape or incest.

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Medicaid does cover routine health care services from Planned Parenthood, such as birth control and family planning. Planned Parenthood receives about 1 percent of the state's Medicaid spending.

South Carolina Republicans have long seen those payments as keeping Planned Parenthood in business and indirectly subsidizing abortions.

Conservative factions of the GOP-controlled General Assembly have sought to strip public funding from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers for years. McMaster used his influence to further that cause in July 2018, issuing an order that booted Planned Parenthood from the state's Medicaid network.

Planned Parenthood has argued such efforts penalize S.C. residents, especially those on Medicaid, who already suffer from a lack of access to quality health care.

Planned Parenthood quickly sued. Lower federal courts have sided with the women's health clinic, allowing it to continue to treat Medicaid patients and receive payment from the government.

McMaster's office vowed to take the fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But Tuesday, the court declined to hear the governor out.

Reach Avery Wilks at 803-374-3115. Follow him on Twitter at @AveryGWilks.

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