Judge Holds Hearing on Indiana Law De-Funding Planned Parenthood

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 6, 2011   |   1:58PM   |   Indianapolis, IN

A federal judge held a hearing on the Indiana law that revokes taxpayer funding for the Planned Parenthood abortion business and indicated a final decision will be coming before July 1.The bill, known as the Schneider Amendment (H.B. 1210), would have the effect of defunding Planned Parenthood and other similar organizations that perform abortions. The Schneider Amendment states that no state agency may enter into a contract with or make a grant to “any entity that performs abortions or maintains or operates a facility where abortions are performed that involves the expenditure of state funds or federal funds administered by the state.”

U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt listened to oral arguments in the first hearing following her decision to deny Planned Parenthood’s initial request for an injunction against the law, which also puts several key abortion limits in place. Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher and Ken Falk of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Planned Parenthood of Indiana, appeared before Judge Pratt.

Fisher said government administrators should resolve Planned Parenthood’s dispute over Indiana’s decision to yank its federal funding through Medicaid, not the courts. He said the amount of money at stake in the dispute between Indiana and the federal government — the Obama administration has threatened to pull as much as $5.3 billion in Medicaid funds from going to Indiana — has not yet been resolved.According to an AP report, he called that a “nuclear option” but said he hoped to resolve things with federal officials so the law can stand and that won’t happen.

“The first round, CMS  has said ‘we don’t think this is consistent with the freedom of choice provision,’” Solicitor General Thomas Fisher said in court. “We have 60 days to appeal….They have to make a decision about what, if any, Medicaid funding they are going to restrict.”

“Does that make you nervous?” Judge Pratt asked Fisher of the possibility of losing the huge share of Medicaid money over the Planned Parenthood funding dispute.

“Of course it does,” he replied, according to the AP report.

Pratt said, “Time is of the essence,” because Planned Parenthood officials have said they will run out of funds for the non-abortion services it offers with the Medicaid money on June 20. The abortion business has refused to stop doing abortions so it can receive the funds and the Indiana state government has pointed out hundreds of legitimate medical centers where women can get the same or better health services where abortions are not done.

Falk said that if funding is not restored, the abortion business will have to close one-quarter of the facilities it runs in Indiana.

Pratt is giving both sides 10 days to submit additional written legal papers in the case and the Planned Parenthood abortion business must show it will likely prevail in the lawsuit for the federal judge to issue a permanent injunction. Falk said the decision by the Obama administration to side with Planned Parenthood shows it would win.

Judge Pratt previously declined to issue the injunction and that is usually an indicator that the judge will eventually issue a ruling against the party bringing the lawsuit.

The state argues that there is “no record that PPIN makes any effort to either segregate Medicaid reimbursements from other unrestricted revenue sources or to allocate the cost of its various lines of business, whether abortion, family planning, cancer screenings, or other services.”

“This indicates that, while PPIN may not receive Medicaid reimbursements directly related to abortions, the Medicaid reimbursements it does receive are pooled or comingled with other monies it receives and thus help to pay for total operational costs,” the state said, making it so abortions or costs related to abortions are indirectly funded. (View the full document here: Memo in Opposition to Motion for Preliminary Injunction)

In addition, the state argues that the new law serves the public interest in three ways:  the funding qualification provision prevents taxpayer dollars from indirectly funding abortions; it advances the State’s goals of encouraging women to choose childbirth over abortion, and the informed consent requirements ensure that women who choose abortion have all the information necessary to make an informed and voluntary decision.

“The state’s thorough and well-reasoned defense of HEA 1210 underscores that this new law is on solid legal footing,” Indiana Right to Life President and CEO Mike Fichter told LifeNews in response.

The Obama administration told the state it can’t implement the new law, with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Donald Berwick denying a request to deny funds saying the federal Medicaid law stipulates that states can’t exclude providers based on the services they provide. But Marcus Barlow, a spokesman for Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration, told National Journal Indiana would enforce the law, “The way the law was written, it went into effect the moment the governor signed it. We were just advised by our lawyers that we should continue to enforce Indiana law.”

Leading pro-life group’s blasted the Obama administration’s decision to stand in the way.

Governor Mitch Daniels signed the law, which would cut off anywhere from $2 million to $3 million the Planned Parenthood abortion business receives in federal funds via the Indiana government through Medicaid.

The law also contains several pro-life provisions that directly affect abortion, such as banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on fetal pain and provisions to opt-out of abortion coverage in any state health exchanges required under the new federal health law, to require that women considering abortion be given full, factual information in writing, and to require doctors who do abortions, or their designees, to maintain local hospital admitting privileges in order to streamline access to emergency care for women injured by abortion.

Three pro-life legal groups have weighed in on the case — including the American Center for Law and Justice, Alliance Defense Fund and Thomas More Society — and they have said the law is constitutional.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana in 2008 suspended an employee after a video showed the staffer covering up a girl’s statutory rape. The video was a part of an earlier series of undercover investigations Live Action performed with a UCLA student, Lila Rose, posing as a 13-year old girl who had sexual relations with a 31-year-old man.

On tape, the Planned Parenthood nurse acknowledges her responsibility to report the abuse, but assures the student, Lila Rose, she will not.

“Okay, I didn’t hear the age [of the 31-year-old]. I don’t want to know the age,” she tells Rose.