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Tampa Bay Planned Parenthood reacts to Supreme Court decision on funding

The justices declined to hear cases that threw out laws cutting funding to the organization.
Credit: Zach Gibson/Getty Images
The U.S. Supreme Court is pictured on September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. On Thursday, Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault, is testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear cases from Kansas and Louisiana. Both states passed laws cutting off Medicaid reimbursements for Planned Parenthood in an attempt to defund the health-care services provider.

Lower courts had thrown both of those laws out, saying the legislation limited patients’ access to health care.

The high court’s decision could further bolster a federal judge’s order striking down a similar law passed in Florida two years ago.

On Tuesday, people in Tampa Bay reacted to the decision.

Elizabeth Edmonds, new to St. Petersburg, needed to see a healthcare provider quickly, but her local doctors' offices had long waiting lists of weeks if not months. So, she ended up at Planned Parenthood.

“Nothing too serious, but I wanted to get checked out,” said Edmonds. “You know, fortunately, three days it took to get me in.”

People like Edmonds say they're glad the Supreme Court refused to hear a case that might have allowed states to withhold Medicaid reimbursement for Planned Parenthood.

Cutting off those funds, she said, could cut off basic medical services like birth control, breast screenings, STD tests and pap smears for tens of thousands of patients in Florida for whom Planned Parenthood is one of few options when it comes to healthcare providers.

“I have been to Planned Parenthood a lot over my life. My friends have. It’s been great,” said Edmonds. “And we have used it all for health services.”

James Kurt, a pro-life advocate who demonstrates in front of the Sarasota Planned Parenthood office just about every week, says the SCOTUS decision was a letdown.

“At the moment it is a defeat, and so it is disappointing and everything that they are not confronting it,” he said.

Kurt disagrees with any federal reimbursement for any abortion provider, even if Planned Parenthood says no tax dollars are used to pay for abortion procedures.

“I mean, no money should go to abortion anyway, but definitely not my tax dollars,” said Kurt.

In 2016, the Florida Legislature actually passed a similar law to defund Planned Parenthood. But just before it could go into effect a federal judge issued an injunction and the law was ultimately struck down.

Tampa Bay’s Planned Parenthood chapter hopes the Supreme Court decision Monday will serve to reinforce the court order in Florida’s case.

“There are some people out there that just don’t want to see the good that’s being done every day,” said Dennis Rees, vice chair of Tampa Bay’s regional Planned Parenthood office.

Rees also hopes the high court’s decision will send a message to lawmakers not to use Medicaid reimbursement as a tool to try to shut down Planned Parenthood.

The issue, says Rees, is not about abortion.

“Not at all. This is a victory for women and men also who come to us also for health care,” said Rees.

But Rees knows this week’s Supreme Court decision will not end the debate over Planned Parenthood. There are more than two dozen abortion-related cases, he said, working their way through the court system.

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