Indiana argues to keep Planned Parenthood funds ban

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 06, 2011 3:08 PM
Indiana argues to keep Planned Parenthood funds ban

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - A federal judge said Monday she will decide by July 1 whether Indiana must resume Medicaid health care funds for the poor to Planned Parenthood.

Indiana's ban on funding to Planned Parenthood has attracted national attention. Last week, federal Medicaid officials warned Indiana that the law was illegal, which could put the state's more than $4 billion in Medicaid funds in jeopardy.

"Does that make you nervous?" U. S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt asked Solicitor General Thomas Fisher during a court hearing Monday.

"Of course it does," Fisher responded. Fischer was in court responding to a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood of Indiana, which seeks to stop implementation of the Indiana law.

Medicaid is jointly funded by the federal and state governments. Planned Parenthood provides reproductive health services, including abortions.

Fisher argued that the state can determine which health providers are qualified to get federal funding. The state maintains that even if federal funds do not pay for abortions directly, the money helps Planned Parenthood keep its doors open and lights on, thereby subsidizing abortions.

It is illegal to use federal money to pay for abortions. Planned Parenthood has argued that the law could cause 9,300 Medicaid patients to lose their preferred provider to receive other, non-abortion services, such as contraceptives and cancer screening.

The Indiana law also is being considered by other states. Medicaid officials put out a bulletin Wednesday reminding states that they cannot exclude providers solely on the basis of the range of medical services they provide.

Planned Parenthood stopped receiving Medicaid funding on May 10 when Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the legislation that also includes new patient notification standards for women seeking abortions that go into effect July 1.

Donations from 46 states have allowed Indiana Planned Parenthood centers to remain open, but new Medicaid patients have been turned away since June 1, according to PPIN president Betty Cockrum.

Fisher claims the federal government notification last week is just the start of a conversation so Indiana can make an appeal and change certain policies to make the law acceptable.

The Indiana law did not take away federal funding from hospitals or free-standing surgery centers that perform abortions. State officials have argued that there are numerous agencies around the state that can provide the services Planned Parenthood gave their Medicaid patients.

Planned Parenthood officials say they will have to close seven centers around the state on June 20 if the funding is not reinstated.

(Writing and reporting by Susan Guyett; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)