Indiana Asks Court to Uphold Planned Parenthood De-Funding

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 27, 2011   |   11:16AM   |   Indianapolis, IN

Indiana officials filed a legal brief on Monday with a federal appeals court asking that it reverse a judge’s decision this summer overturning its new comprehensive pro-life law that limits abortions and de-funds Planned Parenthood.

Several states have followed Indiana’s lead in passing bills or administratively yanking all or part of the taxpayer funding the abortion business receives through the states from the federal government via the Title X family planning program. But, Judge Tanya Walton Pratt issued a temporary injunction forcing the state to fund Planned Parenthood while its lawsuit against the law moves ahead in court.

The legal brief, according to an AP report, says the abortion business could receive the taxpayer funds as long as it forms a new organization to legally separate the family planning portions of its business with the abortion portion. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago will hear oral arguments in the case on October 20.

The law was in effect for 30 days prior to the ruling from Pratt and Planned Parenthood of Indiana was forced to close temporarily and lay off staff as a result.

Last month, more than 40 members of Congress banded together to filed papers supporting the Indiana law as the American Center for Law and Justice, a pro-life legal group, urged the court to uphold the measure.

The ACLJ filed an amicus brief backing the Indiana law saying it is consistent with federal statutes and is constitutionally sound. The brief follows one from the Thomas More Law Center for state legislators who also want to have the law defended.

“The state of Indiana and other states do have the constitutional authority to determine how it spends federal funds,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counselor for the ACLJ. “The fact is that Planned Parenthood receives more than $350-million a year in taxpayer funds. Indiana’s decision to no longer use federal money to fund the nation’s largest abortion provider is not only a constitutionally sound decision, but one we hope is implemented in other states across the country.”

The new law provides, in pertinent part: “An agency of the state may not: (1) enter into a contract with; or (2) 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.”

The lawsuit by Planned Parenthood claims the Indiana law violates a federal statute, but the ACLJ friend-of-the-court brief argues that the Indiana measure is appropriate and constitutional.

“HEA 1210 is not rendered unreasonable or inconsistent with federal Medicaid law simply because it bolsters Indiana’s strong interests in encouraging childbirth and ensuring that abortions are not directly or indirectly subsidized by public funds,” the brief contends. “Indiana may reasonably conclude that sending large sums of public funds to abortion providers that also provide non-abortion services within the same organization serves to indirectly subsidize abortion activities.”

The brief asserts that Indiana has a legal right to determine how the Medicaid dollars entrusted to it for administering are distributed.

The dispute also saw the Obama administration, via the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, claim that the new law violates federal laws that it says allow the federal government to determine the final recipients of family planning dollars the state receives.

The Obama administration has threatened to cut off billions in Medicaid funds if Indiana doesn’t relent, but state officials refused to back down on the new law, and continued defending it in the papers filed with the appeals court.

“If CMS continues to reject Indiana’s plan amendment and is affirmed in doing so, it will likely penalize the state by denying (again subject to judicial review) some portion of federal matching grants,” the appeal reads. “Indiana — meaning the Indiana General Assembly — will then have to decide whether disqualifying abortion clinics from Medicaid is worth whatever price CMS imposes.”

Although the state is appealing the ruling, AP indicates the state has been forced to award Planned Parenthood a $6,000 grant request because of the preliminary injunction.

When ruling in favor of the injunction, Judge Pratt wrote:  “The public interest also tilts in favor of granting an injunction,” citing the threats the Obama administration made to yank billions in federal funding from Indiana because of its decision to not fund the abortion business.

“Denying the injunction could pit the federal government against the state of Indiana in a high-stakes political impasse,” Pratt said. “If dogma trumps pragmatism and neither side budges, Indiana’s most vulnerable citizens could end up paying the price as the collateral damage of a partisan battle.”

Judge Pratt also blocked a portion of the law requiring abortion practitioners to tell women considering an abortion that their unborn child will feel pain as early as 20 weeks into pregnancy. However, she rejected Planned Parenthood’s request that a part of the law be blocked that women be told before an abortion that “human physical life begins when a human ovum is fertilized by a human sperm.”

Indiana Right to Life President and CEO Mike Fichter issued a statement to LifeNews condemning the decision by Judge Pratt blocking key provisions of Indiana law that deny public funding for abortion businesses and require that women be informed about an unborn child’s ability to feel pain.

“We are deeply disappointed that today’s ruling brushes aside the will of the Indiana legislature.  This ruling opens the pipeline for our tax dollars to flow back into the hands of Indiana’s largest abortion provider and denies women seeking abortions the right to know about an unborn child’s ability to feel pain,” Fichter said. “We are confident that Indiana’s right to defund Planned Parenthood and to inform women about the facts of fetal pain will eventually be upheld in the courts, but it is troubling to know that in the meantime, Indiana is being forced to subsidize a business that profits from over 5,500 abortions every year and women are being denied key information they deserve.”

The Obama administration filed legal papers supporting the lawsuit brought forward by the Planned Parenthood abortion business seeking to challenge the Indiana law revoking its taxpayer funding. 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.

In its legal papers, Indiana argues that there is “no record that Planned Parenthood of Indiana 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.

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.

In other states, a federal judge has blocked a Kansas law de-funding Planned Parenthood, and New Hampshire Planned Parenthood centers may close after the state revoked a $1.8 million grant. Montana Planned Parenthood is also grappling with funding cuts and one county in Tennessee de-funded Planned Parenthood.

North Carolina may see the closing of a Planned Parenthood center following de-funding and Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin is making cuts after the abortion business lost $1 million in taxpayer funding there. Ohio lawmakers also filed a new bill to shift funding from Planned Parenthood to health departments. Planned Parenthood could lose as much as $64 million in Texas.