Federal Judge Restores Planned Parenthood Funding
But Indiana case is a partial victory for court’s recognition of human life beginning at conception.
BY STEVE WEATHERBE
| Posted 6/30/11 at 3:48 PM
Indianapolis — A federal judge has temporarily restored taxpayers’ dollars to Planned Parenthood Indiana (PPIN).But pro-life lawyers and organizations say they are confident the state government’s appeal with prevail, even if it has to go to the Supreme Court.
Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, applauded the decision of federal Judge Tanya Walton Pratt both because her temporary injunction restored a reported $ 1.6 million in annual funding that allowed it to keep open eight businesses in the state and also because the decision was an early indication PPIN could get Indiana’s law thrown out when it returns to court for a permanent injunction.
“This ruling means we can resume providing pap tests, breast exams, STD testing and treatment and birth control to both existing and new Medicaid patients,” said PPIN’s president and CEO, Betty Cockrum, in a prepared statement.
“It also means we can call our two disease intervention specialists who were laid off this week back to work while the permanent injunction we are seeking is pending,” stated Cockrum.
However, Paul Linton of the Thomas More Law Center, which represented 60 Indiana legislators who voted for the law at the injunction hearing, said, “This is the first round of a two- or three-round fight. I think there is a reasonable possibility the 7th Circuit [Court of Appeals] will take a different view on the funding issue than Judge Pratt did.”
Linton also called Pratt’s decision a “partial defeat and a partial victory” because Planned Parenthood had sought a temporary injunction against three provisions of Indiana’s pro-life law, passed this spring, and was fully successful only on the funding issue.
Judge Pratt allowed to stand the requirement that abortion providers tell their clients that human life begins at conception, which she ruled was factual and consistent with a patient’s right to know all the facts.
Pratt granted Planned Parenthood a temporary injunction against a second requirement to tell patients that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks because PPIN does not abort fetuses older than 13 weeks. However, the provision will still apply to other abortionists in Indiana.
Temporary injunctions are decided mainly by two questions. First, will serious and irreparable damage be done if the injunction is not granted (and will it be more than the damage caused by granting the injunction)?
Second, is the plaintiff likely to win a permanent injunction once the case is tried in full?
On the first question, Pratt accepted PPIN’s argument that its 9,300 Medicaid clients would be done irreparable harm by the denial of funding.
On the second question, she endorsed PPIN’s position that denying Medicaid dollars to any agency doing abortions violated Medicaid’s so-called “freedom of choice” provision that poor Americans can seek Medicaid services from anyone qualified.
This meant rejecting Indiana’s argument that Medicaid also allows state governments, which administer the federal funds and add their own, to set those qualifications.
As well, she ignored the state’s claim that since Planned Parenthood “comingled” its funds from Medicaid with those from other sources in its financial statements there was no way for PPIN to prove it wasn’t spending Medicaid money on abortions, which is prohibited.
Pratt also relied on a declaration from the federal government’s Health and Human Services Department that the new law was in violation of Medicaid regulations: “The federal government has threatened partial or total withdrawal of federal Medicaid dollars to the state of Indiana, which could total well over $5 billion dollars [sic] annually.”
“The notion the federal government would cut off all $5 billion is absurd,” responded Linton. “There never has been a case where this was done.”
The state of Indiana has already filed notice it will appeal. Linton said there was a chance the 7th Circuit would overturn Pratt, based on how it decides another case. But even defeat in the Supreme Court would not mean final defeat, since the defunding could be handled differently, simply by requiring all Medicaid services to be provided directly, by state, county or municipal agencies, none of which do abortions.
Mike Fichter, president of Indiana Right to Life, said, “We remain confident of victory,” and he noted that Texas and Missouri have passed legislation defunding abortion agencies, with language similar to Indiana’s, that have survived legal challenges. He added, “There is a high probability it will reach the Supreme Court.”
Register correspondent Steve Weatherbe writes from Victoria, British Columbia.
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