Obama administration: Indiana ban on funds for abortion services violates federal law

[JURIST] The Obama administration took a stand Wednesday against a controversial Indiana law [HB 1210] that prevents health care providers with abortion [JURIST news archive] services from receiving Medicaid funds. Donald Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services sent a letter [text, PDF] to Patricia Casanova of the Indiana Office of Medicaid Policy and Planning [official websites] in response to a request for approval, saying the law violates federal law. Medicaid funds cannot be used for abortions under federal law, except in cases of rape or incest, and funds can only be used for health services from a "qualified provider." The Indiana law disqualifies places that provide abortion services. States have the ability to assign the qualified provider status, but the letter says the law violates § 1902(a)(23) of the Social Security Act [text] because it prevents Medicaid beneficiaries from receiving services from certain providers for reasons unrelated to the providers qualifications to provide those services. The letter stated:

Medicaid programs may not exclude qualified health care providers from providing services that are funded under the program because of a provider's scope of practice. Such a restriction would have a particular effect on beneficiaries' ability to access family planning providers, who are subject to additional protections under [the Social Security Act].
Betty Cockrum of Planned Parenthood of Indiana (PPIN) [official website] praised the determination by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, saying the message was clear, "you cannot prevent Medicaid patients from choosing their family planning providers. I trust the State of Indiana will do the right thing, not only for PPIN patients, but for all Medicaid patients in the state and reverse its course."

Last month, a federal judge refused to block [JURIST report] the Indiana law signed by Governor Mitch Daniels [official profile] earlier that week. Several other states have acted recently to tighten restrictions on abortions. Last month, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy websites] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging a South Dakota law requiring women to seek counseling at a pregnancy center and wait three days before obtaining an abortion. Earlier that week, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton [official website] vetoed a pair of bills [JURIST report] that restricted state funding for abortions and banned them altogether after 20 weeks. Also in May, Texas Governor Rick Perry [official website] signed into law a bill that requires women seeking an abortion to first get a sonogram [JURIST report]. Multiple states have acted to ban abortions after 20 weeks, when some studies suggest a fetus can begin feeling pain, including Missouri, Indiana, Alabama, Ohio, Oklahoma, Iowa, Kansas and Idaho [JURIST reports].

 

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