October 21, 2011 — On Thursday, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in a dispute over an Indiana law that eliminates state and federal Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood of Indiana and other organizations that offer abortion services, the AP/Washington Post reports (AP/Washington Post, 10/20).
The state is appealing U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt's decision to issue a preliminary injunction halting enforcement of the law. In her decision, Pratt wrote, "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 provides inappropriate or inadequate care."
Pratt also referred to an Obama administration ruling that denied Indiana's request to make the changes to its Medicaid program. 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" (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/2).
At Thursday's hearing, an attorney for the state said PPIN could end the dispute by agreeing to divide its operations into two entities: one that offers abortion services and one that offers other health services. Solicitor General Thomas Fisher said, "Only by separating the two can we be sure that there's no cross-subsidy."
PPIN's attorney, Ken Falk of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that the state's Medicaid agency warned lawmakers that the legislation would violate Medicaid beneficiaries' "freedom of choice" by targeting the organization. Falk quoted a statement from the state Medicaid agency, which said, "Federal law permits states to define a qualified provider but requires that this definition is related to a provider's ability to perform a service -- and not what services are provided."
PPIN advocates have noted that Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas and Missouri have split off their abortion services but continue to be targeted by efforts to cut their funding.
After Thursday's hearing, the court took the case under advisement. The court has not indicated when it might issue a ruling (AP/Washington Post, 10/20).