Federal Appeals Court Blocks Indiana From Defunding Planned Parenthood

In the second legal victory for Planned Parenthood this week, a federal appeals court has ruled that Indiana may not deny federal Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood affiliates in the state.

Indiana has the unfortunate distinction of being the first state that passed a law to exclude Planned Parenthood from the pool of its Medicaid-eligible providers, a tactic that anti-choice lawmakers often use to target the women’s health organization for performing abortions, despite the fact that abortion services represent just three percent of the care Planned Parenthood provides. Even though an estimated 9,300 low-income women in Indiana rely on Planned Parenthood for their health care — including cancer screenings, STD testing, and birth control — Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) signed a law in May 2011 to cut off the Medicaid funding that finances the organization’s general health screenings.

Today’s decision from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is not the first ruling to strike down Indiana’s attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. The 2011 law was also blocked in an administrative ruling from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services over the summer. Under federal law, Medicaid beneficiaries have the right to choose between the full range of qualified providers for their health care, and states are not permitted to restrict women’s freedom to choose their health care provider on arbitrary grounds.

A similar ruling yesterday in Arizona ensured that the Planned Parenthood clinics in that state will also be able to retain their Medicaid funding. Low-income women in Texas are not so lucky, however. The Texas Health and Human Services department adopted regulations last week that will end federal funding to their Women’s Health Program, as Republican officials there continue to insist that the Medicaid program should be able to discriminate against Planned Parenthood clinics. Cutting off Planned Parenthood’s funding streams in Texas is already forcing health clinics to close their doors, including those that aren’t even affiliated with the national organization.