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Federal Court Stops Indiana Law That Would Cut Planned Parenthood

October 24, 2012
Supporters of Planned Parenthood

Supporters of Planned Parenthood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been one hell of a week for women and sexuality issues in politics, with comments about how conception after rape is something God intended, to Mitt Romney’s week-willed attempt to distance himself from it by saying he didn’t agree.

While explaining his position that the only exception to a ban on abortion should be for the life of a mother, Mourdock said: “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen.”

The Mourdock incident was the second time during the 2012 election campaign that a conservative Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate made controversial remarks about rape.

Missouri candidate Todd Akin said in August that women have natural defenses against pregnancy from “legitimate rape.” Republicans disavowed Akin’s comment and he has trailed Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill in most polls since then.

One bright spot is a recent ruling in Indiana where a federal court ruled that Indiana can’t simply cut funding for Planned Parenthood services for the poor simply because Planned Parenthood may provide abortions for some women.  While the Feds have frequently found that states don’t have to use their own funding to pay for abortions, and rightfully so, because this is an issue that is deeply personal and not a service in which states should be employed, but a state can’t ostracize providers because they disagree with their politics. 

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled that Indiana had broad authority to exclude unqualified providers from its Medicaid program for the poor, but could not deny funding to a class of providers for an unrelated reason — in this case, because Planned Parenthood clinics perform abortions.

It said doing so deprives Medicaid recipients of their legal right to obtain care from qualified providers of their choosing.

“Indiana maintains that any harm to Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid patients is superficial because they have many other qualified Medicaid providers to choose from,” Circuit Judge Diane Sykes wrote for a three-judge panel. “This argument misses the mark.”

States cannot use federal funds to pay for most abortions, and Indiana has a similar ban for state funds. But the 7th Circuit said Indiana went farther by banning abortion services providers from using state-administered funds on other services.

While the 7th Circuit decision applies in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, it could have wider significance.

Lawmakers in more than a dozen U.S. states have in the last few years taken steps to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, prompting it to file several lawsuits.

Planned Parenthood is the country’s largest provider of abortions, conducting about one-fourth of those performed in the United States. Last year, Republicans unsuccessfully tried to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, a Republican, had signed the law banning funding in May 2011, but U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt in Indianapolis put it on hold the following month.

While people may not want their tax dollars going to clinics that support abortion providers, the idea that this can be used to deny funding is no better an argument than those who say they don’t want their tax dollars to go to war funding–futile.

“This is a total victory,” said Ken Falk, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which handled Planned Parenthood’s appeal.

“It is significant because, around the country, there are hundreds of thousands of people who get services through Planned Parenthood that are reimbursed by Medicaid,” he said. “To allow those services to be denied solely because a state does not like other things that Planned Parenthood does can cause serious harm to people who depend on it for basic medical needs.”

Among Planned Parenthood’s other services are cancer and HIV screenings, contraception and family planning. Three percent of its services relate to abortion, according to its website.

Of course then Planned Parenthood had to go and be obnoxious about it, and they got help from the ACLU, which I have personally come to hate over the years, feeling that the ACLU only supports big donors and ignores most poor people, so this is particularly galling.  The sad fact is that most people who pay taxes hand that money to the federal government, without a say in how it is spent, but that said, I don’t think it should be up to the federal government to get into abortion debates.

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