DOJ: Indiana ban on Medicaid funds to abortion providers violates federal law

DOJ: Indiana ban on Medicaid funds to abortion providers violates federal law

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[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Thursday urged the court to grant an injunction [brief, PDF] to stop the enforcement of an Indiana abortion law [HB 1210], which seeks to deny Medicaid funding to organizations that provide abortion services. The DOJ filed the brief in the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana [official website] seeking to stop the Indiana law which prevents Medicaid funding from going to Planned Parenthood [advocacy website] for any reason due to their abortion services. In the brief, the DOJ argued that the law violated Medicaid’s freedom of choice provisions by eliminating health care providers from coverage. Urging the court to grant the injunction, the DOJ stated:

Preliminary injunctive relief is warranted here not only because Indiana’s law violates the Medicaid statute, but also because injunctive relief is in the public interest. Injunctive relief will prevent further injury to Indiana’s Medicaid beneficiaries. And although Indiana claims that its law serves the public interest because it prevents “taxpayer dollars from indirectly funding abortion[,] advances the State’s goal of encouraging women to choose childbirth instead of abortion … and ensure[s] that women who choose abortion have all the information necessary
to make an informed and voluntary decision,” Congress, in the Medicaid statute, has already made a different policy judgment: to ensure that beneficiaries who wish to receive Medicaid services—particularly family planning services—may receive those services from providers of their own choosing.

US District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt has said she will rule on the issue before July 1 [AP report]. The judge gave Indiana a week to respond to the DOJ’s brief.

The DOJ brief echoes arguments made earlier this month by the Obama administration, which argued against Indiana’s law [JURIST report] in a letter to the state. Last month, a federal judge refused to block the law [JURIST report]. Several other states have acted recently to tighten restrictions on abortions. Last month, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] 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 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 signed 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].