Planned Parenthood down, not out 

As Governor Mitch Daniels takes his sweet time to sign off on HEA 1210, Planned Parenthood is gearing up for a counterattack.

In the final form submitted to Daniels, HEA 1210 would cut off Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood of Indiana (PPIN) clinics across the state, denying some 22,000 Hoosiers of health care services.

Indiana Senate legislators approved the bill, 35-13, on April 19. That evening, PPIN circulated a press release vowing to immediately file for injunctive relief if the bill was signed into law. Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of PPIN, was quoted in the materials:

"This is not about PPIN. It’s about thousands of Hoosiers who will have reduced access to preventive, reproductive health care. We will continue to fight to protect our patients.”

House lawmakers were seemingly unfazed by the threat; a little over a week later, on April 27, they voted to pass the amended bill on to Daniels' desk, 66-32.

The Huffington Post picked up the story on Monday, reporting that the Planned Parenthood Federation of America had stepped in to offer PPIN some much-needed backup:

“We're going to file a lawsuit in federal court as soon after the governor signs this bill as we can get into court,” said Roger Evan, director of litigation for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The funding ban is scheduled to take effect immediately, and we see Medicaid patients every day, so we will be seeking instantaneous relief against the law taking effect while we pursue the litigation.”

The HuffPo report pointed out that the Hyde Amendment, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976, has blocked taxpayer dollars from funding abortion for more than 30 years. The provision limits tax deductions for the costs associated with abortion in addition to blocking clinics from using federal funds to perform the procedure. Last Wednesday, May 4, the U.S. House voted to approve HR 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which would make these restrictions permanent.

Monday's article continues:

Further, Evan said, since abortion is legal on a federal level, the bill violates the 14th Amendment by punishing those institutions that offer it.

“A very essence of something being a constitutional right is that the states cannot punish you for doing it,” he said. “The problem here is that Indiana is penalizing Planned Parenthood for providing women with access to abortion services — an obviously constitutional realm of conduct. They’re trying to cut off more than a million dollars worth of funds. It's punishment in disguise.”

Daniels has drawn considerable national attention over the last several weeks as he remains coy about his decision to run for president. Though he began the year saying he'd avoid focusing on social issues during the legislative session, he's since backtracked on that restraint. "I supported this bill from the outset," Gov. Daniels said shortly after HB 1210 passed in both the House and Senate, "and the recent addition of language guarding against the spending of tax dollars to support abortions creates no reason to alter my position." Planned Parenthood supporters can only guess as to whether the carrot of the conservative vote, if he does embark on the presidential campaign trail after all, will push him to follow through on the enrollment.

If signed into law, the bill's impact would be immediate —Â Medicaid patients with existing appointments would have no way to pay for them, and would likely be forced to simply go without the health care services they need. According to The Huffington Post:

Daniels’ office did not respond to calls for comment on whether the state legislature has a plan to alert patients of the immediate policy change or whether the state legislature is concerned about the new law violating federal rules. Evan said it's clear from his perspective that Indiana lawmakers proceeded on this bill without any consideration of the practical or legal consequences.

"The legal precedent is already there, but I don't think that penetrates the reasoning of right wing legislators who have an agenda and a vendetta," he said. "They just plunge forward."

Update: Gov. Daniels signed HEA 1210 late Tuesday afternoon. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana promptly filed a request for an injunction and temporary restraining order in the U.S. District Court "on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and its patients."

According to a press release from Planned Parenthood of Indiana:

The temporary restraining order was requested to prevent HEA 1210 — a law barring the state from entering into contracts with, or granting to, any entities (other than hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers) that provide abortions — from being enforced. In addition to the ACLU of Indiana, PPIN is also being assisted in this legal action by attorneys from Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA).

“By signing this bill, the governor has put the health care of thousands of Hoosiers who rely on federal funding at risk,” said PPIN President and CEO Betty Cockrum. “And by signing when he did, he put patients with appointments tomorrow at PPIN health centers in danger of not getting their birth control or physical exams. However, we’re not going to let that happen. We will see all patients who rely on federal funding that have appointments until we receive a ruling in this case, and will cover those costs out of our Women’s Health Fund.”

Planned Parenthood will continue offering its services, following through with Free Pap Days this week.

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Catherine Green

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