U.S. top court rejects anti-abortion group's Planned Parenthood case

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an anti-abortion group's bid to force the federal government to reveal more information about a $1 million grant it made in 2011 to women's health provider Planned Parenthood in New Hampshire.

The nine justices rejected an appeal filed by New Hampshire Right to Life, a group that sued the federal government under freedom of information law to find out about the arrangement.

The Supreme Court's action leaves in place a February ruling by the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of the government.

The government already has revealed some details about the grant, but New Hampshire Right to Life sought more, including a Planned Parenthood internal document that explains how the group operates its clinics.

Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions as well as health services for women, has been under fire for months by Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion activists over a series of videos produced by an anti-abortion group that purport to show that it improperly sells fetal tissue to researchers for profit.

Planned Parenthood gets about $500 million annually in federal funds, largely in reimbursements through the Medicaid health insurance program.

Two of the court's conservative justices, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, said they would have heard the case.

Thomas said in a written statement joined by Scalia that the appeals court decision "perpetuates an unsupported interpretation" of the federal Freedom of Information Act.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gave the family planning grant directly to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. Normally, federal funds are dispersed by the state, but officials in New Hampshire voted not to give any money to Planned Parenthood. The federal government then decided to provide the grant directly to Planned Parenthood.

New Hampshire Right to Life contends Planned Parenthood may have violated federal law by using the money to subsidize abortions. It is illegal for federal funds to be used for abortion services.

The high court's decision not to hear the dispute came three days after the justices announced they would decide their first major abortion case since 2007. The court on Friday agreed to hear a challenge by abortion providers to parts of a restrictive, Republican-backed Texas law they contend are aimed at shutting abortion clinics.

The case the court rejected on Monday is New Hampshire Right to Life v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 14-1272.