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Judge ends Indiana-Planned Parenthood battle

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 7:56 am

INDIANAPOLIS — A judge on Tuesday made permanent her order barring Indiana from denying Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood clinics, ending the state's two-year legal fight.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt issued his permanent injunction after the U.S. Supreme Court in May refused to hear Indiana's appeal in the case. Days later, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued an administrative ruling siding with Planned Parenthood.

Indiana had sought to prevent Medicaid enrollees from accessing health care at clinics operated by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky because the organization provides abortions.

Planned Parenthood, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, had argued that a 2011 Indiana law targeting the organization should be blocked because it probably conflicted with a federal Medicaid statute that protects patients' rights to make their own decisions about health care providers.

"This decision recognizes the rights and liberties of health care providers and the women they serve," said ACLU of Indiana Executive Director Jane Henegar. "We hope lawmakers will now see where federal law and the Constitution draw the line to protect individuals against government intrusion."

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller issued a statement saying "it was important and necessary to defend the policy decision of the people's elected representatives in the Legislature that Medicaid dollars should not indirectly subsidize the payroll and overhead expenses of abortion providers. "

"If legal challenges to similar statutes in other states eventually reach the United States Supreme Court, then Indiana would have another opportunity through an amicus brief to assert this legal argument," Zoeller said.

Tuesday's ruling made permanent the judge's June 2011 preliminary injunction. It came a day after the two sides filed an agreement with the court stipulating that the state cannot violate Medicaid's "freedom of choice" provision.

The legal battle dating to May 2011 was marked by a temporary interruption in Planned Parenthood's ability to receive reimbursement for seeing Medicaid patients for routine care such as Pap smears, breast exams and pregnancy tests.

The interruption, however, led 1,600 donors in 48 states and on three continents to provide about $500,000 allowing Medicaid recipients to continue to receive at Planned Parenthood's more than 20 clinics across Indiana, said Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky.

"We've been encouraged at every step along the way, but two years is a long time, and it certainly did introduce some confusion out there for our patients," Cockrum said in a telephone interview. "That's unfortunate anytime when Indiana is seeing a lot of economic duress. We're seeing the number of Hoosiers living in poverty increase. It's a bad time for people to have confusion about their health care."

The 2011 law would have made Indiana the first to deny the organization Medicaid funds for general health services. The state argued that Medicaid funds intended to help groups such as Planned Parenthood provide general health care would indirectly subsidize abortions.

The Hyde Amendment, a 1976 provision named after the late Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., bans federal funding for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.