News Local/State

Court Stays Out of Indiana Planned Parenthood Funding Case


In the first Planned Parenthood defunding case to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices have refused to disturb a lower court decision that barred Indiana from stripping Medicaid payments to the organization.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Oct. 23 that the law targeting Planned Parenthood went too far because it denied women the right to choose their own medical providers.

More than a dozen states have enacted or considered laws that bar Planned Parenthood from receiving any Medicaid payments for treating poor women. The laws target the organization because it also provides privately funded abortion services in about 3 percent of its cases.

Six federal courts have ruled that targeted defunding is illegal, since federal law bars interference with the choice of a qualified Medicaid provider. The Indiana case was the first of these to reach the high court, and the justices, without comment, declined to intervene, leaving intact the lower court ruling in favor of Planned Parenthood.

One in five women in the U.S. has visited a Planned Parenthood health center at least once in her life, according to the organization.

Each year, Planned Parenthood clinics conduct 640,000 breast cancer screenings and 585,000 Pap tests for cervical cancer. The clinics see 2 million patients annually for birth control purposes and 4.5 million to test for sexually transmitted diseases, like HIV. The organization says that more than 90 percent of its health care services are preventive.

Federal law bars the use of federal funds for abortion, but Planned Parenthood does provide privately funded abortions. The organization says those account for about 3 percent of its caseload.

Betty Cockrum, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, called the ruling a 'victory' for women's health.

“We’re delighted," Cockrum said. "It’s clearly affirmation by the highest court in the land that the premise for our lawsuit in the first place is well-grounded.”

The case in Indiana now goes back to federal court in Indianapolis to determine whether a temporary injunction blocking the 2011 law should be made permanent. Cockrum said she expects there will be another hearing in federal court later this year.

"I'm assuming that'll happen sometime before the end of the calendar year in which case it gives the court plenty of time to issue it's ruling before the Indiana General Assembly returns to the statehouse in January 2014," she said.

But American Civil Liberties Union attorney Ken Falk said he believes the state will drop the case.

“I think it’s pretty clear that what the 7th Circuit said, and it’s not unique in saying (that it's) beyond the power of states to do through the Medicaid program," he said. "The states cannot say to persons on Medicaid ‘you cannot go to providers who providers who provide abortions or do other things we don’t like.”

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said legislators should have the authority to decide the use of taxpayer money and that his office was considering how to proceed with the case.

Gov. Mike Pence is also considering options following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision not to take up the case.

Pence, a fierce opponent of Planned Parenthood during his time in Congress, said Tuesday that his staff is reviewing the case and he will decide what to do after viewing his legal options.

"We're disappointed in the court's decision, we obviously strongly supported the efforts of 2011," Pence said. "I continue to believe and feel strongly that taxpayers should not be required to support the largest abortion provider in America."