Case Over Planned Parenthood Funding Sputters at Supreme Court

     (CN) – The Supreme Court refused Monday to take up an open-records case involving Planned Parenthood’s federal funding, sparking objections from two justices.
     While funding by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service is usually awarded through subgrants by states, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England applied to HHS directly for a grant in 2011 after New Hampshire chose not to award it any funds.
     Despite the fact federal grants are not permitted to fund abortion services, the state expressed concern that the money was being used to subsidize abortions. New Hampshire also informed HHS that it could not find a replacement provider of family-planning services as required by federal law.
     When HHS awarded the grant, finding the nonprofit had “a history of successfully providing services in this area of the state,” New Hampshire Right to Life filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for underlying documentation.
     The group filed suit when HHS withheld some of the requested material, deeming it intra-agency memoranda or privileged commercial information.
     A federal judge found for the department, the First Circuit affirmed and the U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to take up the case.
     Per their custom, the justices offered no explanation for their decision, but Justice Clarence Thomas complained in a dissent that the case warranted review.
     Joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, Thomas said the First Circuit its conclusion “not on the ordinary meaning of the term ‘confidential,’ but on conjectures as to whether disclosure could harm Planned Parenthood’s competitive position.”
     “We should not leave the meaning of Exemption 4 up to an atextual test that has different limits in different circuits,” Thomas wrote.
     Thomas said there is confusion and “judicial speculation” when it comes to defining “confidential” commercial information for the “convoluted” test of whether disclosure will cause competitive harm to the entity from which the information was obtained.
     “The First Circuit’s decision warrants review,” he wrote. “It perpetuates an unsupported interpretation of an important federal statute and further muddies an already amorphous test.”
     Monday’s order list denies certiorari to dozens of cases and grants none.
     (CN) – The Supreme Court refused Monday to take up an open-records case involving Planned Parenthood’s federal funding, sparking objections from two justices.
     While funding by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service is usually awarded through subgrants by states, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England applied to HHS directly for a grant in 2011 after New Hampshire chose not to award it any funds.
     Despite the fact federal grants are not permitted to fund abortion services, the state expressed concern that the money was being used to subsidize abortions. New Hampshire also informed HHS that it could not find a replacement provider of family-planning services as required by federal law.
     When HHS awarded the grant, finding the nonprofit had “a history of successfully providing services in this area of the state,” New Hampshire Right to Life filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for underlying documentation.
     The group filed suit when HHS withheld some of the requested material, deeming it intra-agency memoranda or privileged commercial information.
     A federal judge found for the department, the First Circuit affirmed and the U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to take up the case.
     Per their custom, the justices offered no explanation for their decision, but Justice Clarence Thomas complained in a dissent that the case warranted review.
     Joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, Thomas said the First Circuit its conclusion “not on the ordinary meaning of the term ‘confidential,’ but on conjectures as to whether disclosure could harm Planned Parenthood’s competitive position.”
     “We should not leave the meaning of Exemption 4 up to an atextual test that has different limits in different circuits,” Thomas wrote.
     Thomas said there is confusion and “judicial speculation” when it comes to defining “confidential” commercial information for the “convoluted” test of whether disclosure will cause competitive harm to the entity from which the information was obtained.
     “The First Circuit’s decision warrants review,” he wrote. “It perpetuates an unsupported interpretation of an important federal statute and further muddies an already amorphous test.”
     Monday’s order list denies certiorari to dozens of cases and grants none.

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