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Federal judge issues injunction against Indiana abortion law
Federal judge issues injunction against Indiana abortion law
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[JURIST] The US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana [official website] on Friday granted a preliminary injunction [text, PDF] against a state law [HEA 1210, text] that would block Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood of Indiana (PPIN) [official website] and other organizations providing abortion services. The decision handed down by Judge Tanya Walton Pratt [official profile] prevents application of the portion of the law that bans contracts between state agencies and any entity that performs abortions or maintains a facility where abortions are performed. This ban includes disbursement of grant money, including federal Medicare funds, a provision PPIN claims is not legal under the federal Medicaid Act’s “freedom of choice” provision, which allows states to disallow Medicare funding for medical providers based on deficiencies in quality of service. The court’s decision is not the final word in the case, but it finds that PPIN has demonstrated a sufficient likelihood of success for its contention that HEA 1210 is illegal under federal law:

Unquestionably, states have authority to exclude medical providers from participating in Medicaid under some circumstances. The question then becomes whether this is one of those circumstances. … [I]t is well-settled that the “freedom of choice” provision does not give Medicaid recipients an absolutely unfettered right to choose their healthcare provider. … The defunding provision, however, renders PPIN “unqualified” to serve as a Medicaid provider because, separate and apart from its basic health care services, PPIN also performs abortions. Thus, the question arises: Can Indiana pick and choose Medicaid providers based on the range of medical services they provide?

In her opinion Pratt noted that PPIN’s likelihood of success is supported by the language of various provisions in the Medicaid statutes and applicable case law, along with the federal government’s recent rejection of Indiana’s proposed amendment to its Medicaid plan.

Last month, a federal judge refused to block the law [JURIST report] upon passage. But Friday’s ruling is in line with a recent US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] brief that urged the court to grant an injunction [brief, PDF] to stop the enforcement of the Indiana law [JURIST report], which went into effect in May. The brief echoed arguments made earlier this month by the Obama administration, which argued against the law [JURIST report] in a letter to the state, which is one of several to 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 would have 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].