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Appeals Court Blocks Indiana Law to De-Fund Abortion Providers | THE JEENYUS CORNER

THE JEENYUS CORNER

By Joe Palazzolo

A federal appeals court blocked part of an Indiana law that cut public funding to abortion providers.

The 2011 law excluded Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from Medicaid, the state-administered health program for low-income Americans. The Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on Tuesday said the law deprived Medicaid patients of their right to obtain medical care from providers of their choice.

Planned Parenthood, which sued to block the Indiana law soon after it was passed, performs abortions but also provides low-income patients with a range of other services, such as cancer screening, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and prenatal care.

The ruling contrasted with an August decision by the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upholding a Texas law that de-funded Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. A third case is unfolding in Arizona, where a federal district judge recently blocked enforcement of a similar state law.

Federal law already forbids states from using federal funds to pay for most abortions, and Indiana has equivalent restrictions on the use of state funds. But 2011 law went further, stanching state-administered funds to any organization that performs abortions, even if they were earmarked for other health services.

Federal law says that individuals who are eligible for Medicaid may obtain assistance from “any institution, agency, community pharmacy, or person, qualified to perform the service or services required.” The Seventh Circuit, in the Tuesday ruling written by Judge Diane Sykes, said Planned Parenthood was indisputably a qualified provider.

Judge Sykes, an appointee of President George W. Bush, was joined by Judge Michael Kanne, a Reagan appointee. Judge Richard Cudahy, who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter, agreed with the results of the ruling but said the case should be sent back to federal trial court to more closely consider possible burdens the law imposes on the right to have an abortion.

But Judge Sykes stressed that while the law may have conflicted with Medicaid requirements, it didn’t “impermissibly burden” a woman’s right to obtain an abortion. The courts have upheld bans on public funding for abortions. Thus, Judge Sykes said, Indiana’s “ban on funding of abortion providers—even for unrelated services—cannot indirectly burden a woman’s right to obtain an abortion.”

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels had no immediate comment on the ruling, a spokeswoman said. Planned Parenthood didn’t immediately respond to a call for comment.

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