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Judge Blocks Ind. Law Cutting Off Medicaid Funding for Planned Parenthood

Judge Blocks Ind. Law Cutting Off Medicaid Funding for Planned Parenthood

June 27, 2011 — U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt on Friday granted a preliminary injunction preventing Indiana from enforcing a law that eliminated funding through state contracts or grants to Planned Parenthood of Indiana because it offers abortion services, allowing PPIN's clinics to once again be reimbursed by Medicaid for preventive health services, Reuters reports (Guyett, Reuters, 6/25).

In her decision, Pratt wrote that the state law "will exact a devastating financial toll on Planned Parenthood of Indiana and hinder its ability to continue serving patients' general health needs." She added, "States do not have carte blanche to expel otherwise competent Medicaid providers," and "there are no allegations that Planned Parenthood of Indiana is incompetent or that it providers inappropriate or inadequate care."

Pratt gave "some measure of deference" to an Obama administration ruling that denied Indiana's request to make the changes to its Medicaid program. "The public interest tilts in favor of granting an injunction," Pratt wrote, adding, "The federal government has threatened partial or total withholding of federal Medicaid dollars to the state of Indiana, which could total well over $5 billion annually and affect nearly one million Hoosiers." She said, "Denying the injunction could pit the federal government against the state of Indiana in a high-stakes political impasse. And if dogma trumps pragmatism and neither side budges, Indiana's most vulnerable citizens could end up paying the price as the collateral damage of a partisan battle" (Pear, New York Times, 6/24).

Pratt also granted a preliminary injunction against a provision in the law that -- as applied to PPIN -- requires physicians to tell women seeking abortion services that a fetus can feel pain after 20 weeks of gestation. However, Pratt denied PPIN's request to block a provision requiring physicians to tell women seeking abortion that "human physical life begins when a human ovum is fertilized by a human sperm."

Pratt wrote, "The inclusion of the biology-based word 'physical' is significant, narrowing this statement to biological characteristics." She added, "When the statement is read as a whole, it does not require a physician to address whether the embryo or fetus is a 'human life' in the metaphysical sense" (AP/NPR, 6/25).

Background

Pratt previously rejected a request by PPIN and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana -- which is representing PPIN in the case -- to issue an immediate injunction to block enforcement of the measure. The funding ban, which took effect May 10, effectively prohibits Medicaid reimbursements for services provided in clinics affiliated with PPIN. For years, federal law has prohibited the use of federal Medicaid funds to pay for abortion services. Prior to enactment of the law, PPIN could receive reimbursement from Medicaid for the non-abortion-related services it provides (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/17).

Reaction

Ken Falk, an ACLU attorney defending PPIN, said the ruling is a "positive step in what likely will be a long legal battle," adding that the organizations "are encouraged by the judge's ruling but know our work is not yet done" (Reuters, 6/25).

Indiana Family and Social Services Administration spokesperson Marcus Barlow said the state would comply with the preliminary injunction but is considering an appeal (New York Times, 6/24). "We're still deciding on what our next step will be," Barlow said (AP/NPR, 6/25). Bryan Corbin, spokesperson for Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller (R), said the state likely will seek a review by U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (New York Times, 6/24).

Meanwhile, PPIN officials anticipated being able to offer services to Medicaid beneficiaries on Saturday and said they will begin filing for reimbursement, the AP/NPR reports. Betty Cockrum, PPIN's president, said, "This decision will have immediate, positive consequences for our patients and our organization, the state's largest reproductive health care provider."

Kate Shepherd, PPIN spokesperson, said the organization believes it will be able to obtain funding under Pratt's decision even if the state files an appeal because the injunction will remain in effect until another judge overturns it (AP/NPR, 6/25).

According to the Times, Pratt's ruling has "national significance" because several other states have pushed similar legislation (New York Times, 6/24).