U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Case on Planned Parenthood Funding

by | November 18, 2015 AT 11:40 AM

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a case filed by New Hampshire Right to Life that would have put the high court in the middle of the debate over federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

New Hampshire's leading pro-life group had sought documents pertaining to a non-competitive grant the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded directly to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in 2011, after the state decided not to fund Planned Parenthood that year.

The lawsuit, New Hampshire Right to Life v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, had sought public release of the information under the Freedom of Information Act.

The U.S. attorney acting on behalf of the Obama administration argued that the documents were exempt from release, citing previous court decisions that shield commercially sensitive information from disclosure.

New Hampshire pro-life forces have been trying to obtain documents they say would reveal how the federal government did an end-run around the Executive Council in 2011 by contracting directly with Planned Parenthood, despite the protests of three Republican councilors at the time.

Those documents include the organization's medical standards manual and fee schedule.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Planned Parenthood did not have to disclose the information under FOIA, because doing so might affect Planned Parenthood's competitive position in future grant applications.

NHRTL appealed to the U.S Supreme Court, which on Monday refused to hear the case, with justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissenting.

In an opinion joined by Scalia, Thomas said the lower court's reasoning "perpetuates an unsupported interpretation of an important federal statute."

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has, over the years, released 2,500 pages of records sought in the FOIA request, but held back information contained in the Planned Parenthood grant application and inter-agency emails.

N.H. Right to Life is represented by attorney Michael Tierney, with the law firm of Wadleigh, Starr & Peters in Manchester, along with lawyers from a national group, Alliance Defending Freedom.

(c)2015 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.)