In what women’s health advocates are hailing as a victory, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to weigh in on a lower court decision that prevented Indiana from stripping funding from the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics. By declining to hear the case on Tuesday, the nation’s highest court has ensured that Indiana will remain unable to defund the national women’s health organization.
Indiana was the first state to target Planned Parenthood by banning it from receiving state-level Medicaid funds, a tactic that anti-abortion politicians have increasingly used in their ongoing crusade against the organization. In 2011, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) signed a law to cut off the Medicaid dollars that finance Planned Parenthood’s general health screenings for thousands of low-income women in Indiana.
But the courts have consistently held that discriminating against qualified Medicaid providers simply based on their position on abortion rights is unconstitutional. Even though Indiana’s 2011 law inspired a rash of similar legislation in states like Arizona, North Carolina, Kansas, and Tennessee, all of those efforts to defund Planned Parenthood have been blocked in court. A notable exception is Texas, where anti-choice officials opted to forfeit all of the federal funding for their Medicaid program in order to kick Planned Parenthood out of the program.
Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, noted that the most recent court decision regarding Indiana should send a clear message to anti-choice lawmakers. “Politicians in all 50 states should take note: blocking Planned Parenthood from funding to provide preventive health care is both unlawful, and deeply unpopular,” Richards pointed out in a press release. “Over and over again, courts have said that states cannot block people from getting preventive health care at Planned Parenthood, and the vast majority of the American public agrees.”
Planned Parenthood estimates that one out of every five women in the United States has visited one of the organization’s health clinics at some point in her life. Indeed, recent research from the Guttmacher Institute has demonstrated that women rely on publicly-funded family planning clinics as their primary care provider — and many of those women say they don’t seek out health care anywhere else because Planned Parenthood better provides for their reproductive needs.
The current situation in Texas provides a stark illustration of what happens to those women when they can no longer use their Medicaid insurance to visit Planned Parenthood: they’re forced to look for new doctors, and many of them simply forgo family planning services altogether. Nonetheless, lawmakers hostile to abortion rights continue to push to defund the organization. Just last week, in the aftermath of the devastating damage from two tornadoes, Oklahoma legislators voted to strip funding from Planned Parenthood.