Abortion showdown looms for Indiana

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A looming showdown over Indiana's new law that cuts funding for the Planned Parenthood organization may test how far Republican-led states are willing to go in pressing their tough new anti-abortion agendas.

The stakes are high. The future of health care for more than 1 million poor and elderly Indiana residents hangs in the balance.

Indiana became the first state this year to cut off all government funds to Planned Parenthood, fulfilling conservatives' goal of not giving taxpayer money to organizations that provide abortions. Other conservative states have considered such action in recent years but backed away under the threat of loss of all federal money for their Medicaid programs.

The willingness of Indiana, led by a Republican governor and GOP-controlled Legislature, to challenge the federal government and risk a huge financial penalty could take the issue into uncharted legal and political territory. Conservative leaders in other states will be watching the confrontation as they plan their own action on abortion and other social issues.

"I think this is an instance in which a state is really trying to overturn national policy and in so doing is likely to forego federal funding," said Christopher Arterton, professor of political management at George Washington University, a consultant to the Democratic party and an expert on federal-state issues.

Is Indiana willing to risk $4.3 billion in Medicaid money to strike a blow for the right-to-life movement? Some conservative members of Republican-controlled legislatures argue it's time for states to risk serious penalties to defend their principles and throw off federal mandates. And the Medicaid program, with its rising costs and strict rules, has been a particular target of ire.

Is the Obama administration actually willing to leave low-income families without health care to punish a defiant state?

"Like any game of chicken, it's about who blinks first," said Ed Haislmaier, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation's Center for Health Policy, a conservative think-tank.

Planned Parenthood has filed suit to challenge Indiana's law, so the courts could have a say in how the dispute is resolved.

The Obama administration directed Indiana this week to drop its ban on Planned Parenthood, which the legislature passed this spring after becoming considerably more Republican and conservative in last fall's midterm election. The Department of Health and Human Services said the state cannot legally pick and choose which agencies provide health care to people covered by the federal-state program. The warning letter cited a federal statute that directs the withholding of all Medicaid funding from a state if it violates federal law.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said this week that 19 states have gotten into disputes with the Obama administration over health care funding, and all amended their plans to keep their money. He said he expects Indiana to do the same.

Arizona reversed course last year after HHS threatened to withhold money because the state had frozen its children's health program. Some Republican lawmakers in Texas also proposed dropping out of the Medicaid program this year but backed away because of the financial impact.

Republican lawmakers in Indiana are refusing to back down.

"Indiana's on solid legal ground," said state Sen. Scott Schneider, an Indianapolis Republican who sponsored the measure to cut off Planned Parenthood. "There's no reason for us to change course at this time."

Indiana conservatives are clearly hoping the administration will blink if it comes to cutting off health insurance for poor people. The money pays for all kinds of routine health care.

The White House and HHS "have made the decision they are willing to drive those stakes that much higher at the risk of poor people's health," said Sue Swayze, legislative director of Indiana Right to Life, which is supporting the Indiana law.

Carrying out the threat could be difficult, Haislmaier said.

"From a political standpoint it is interesting whether the Obama administration has really thought through the implications," he said.

Possible compromises or half-measures could settle the matter.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who did not push for the Planned Parenthood law, could ask state lawmakers to repeal it. The federal court in Indianapolis that is hearing Planned Parenthood's legal challenge could block the law from going into effect, buying time for changes.

The federal Medicaid statute also gives HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius latitude to withhold only a portion of Indiana's Medicaid dollars, cushioning the impact.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Sen. Luke Kenley, a Republican who supported the Planned Parenthood ban, said the state should seek some deal to keep people from losing their coverage.

"If the state can't reach an agreement with the federal government, then the state should back off in the face of losing all its Medicaid funding," he said.

Kansas state lawmakers approved a budget earlier this month that restricts funding for Planned Parenthood. North Carolina lawmakers also are expected to block funds for the group.

HHS issued a warning letter to all 50 states this week, effectively firing a "shot across the bow" of others considering similar actions, said Betty Cockrum, president of Planned Parenthood of Indiana.


  • Idiocracy
    I defer to my original post. It speaks for itself. Read it again. You people either just don't get it or your reprobate minds don't allow decent thoughts. This conversation is very disturbing and sad. May God have mercy on your souls.
  • Ughh...
    When will the legislature figure out that you can not legislate morality?

    Abortions are tragic and happen far too often. But sadly this is the only option for some, so stop trying to run an end around to cut off funding because you don't like the law.

    I agree that a large portion of right to life advocates do not focus on the issues beyond birth. Again, while abortions are tragic, so is a 12 year old child being beaten to death by his mother for stealing pain killers, while the dad does nothing.
  • Silliness
    My thoughts in a nutshell To Mitch and the legislature:

    Remember Captain Lames Lawrence, USN, and follow his dying command:


    The state caved once, in a confrontation with the Feds - remember the lunacy of the 55 MPH speed limit on highways designed for 70-plus? Never Again!
  • @dercmc
    PP does so much more than abortions, My wife and I were able to recieve vital care there when we were broke. I value my wife, my family and PP's services!
  • Schneider is a buffoon
    I can't believe I voted for Scott Schneider. When he's up for reelection, I'll use every resource available to make sure he loses.

    He's turned the State of Indiana into more of a laughing stock that it already is. This bill does nothing to decrease the number of abortions that will be performed, and likely increases that number by restricting access to birth control. This is nothing more than disgusting, willful pandering with wanton disregard to the public health. He should be ashamed, but I imagine he's not.
  • Are you going to raise all these babies?
    You need to please educate yourself. Planned Parenthood helps PREVENT unwanted pregnancies. Planned Parenthood is not, nor has it ever been an abortion mill. They provide a variety of serves, not just abortion. When you try to shut down Planned Parenthood there will be less access to birth control and more unwanted children, brought up by ignorant parents or don't care or don't love them. Are you and all your right to life friends signed up to be foster parents? I hope so, because we already have too many unwanted, unloved children without good homes. You want to protect the unborn, but what about when they become toddlers, teenagers, and then adults? Make sure they're born, but who cares what happens to them after that, right? Not your problem?
  • Speaking of the Uneducated...
    PP is NOT an "abortion mill." I'm sick and tired of people playing fast and loose with the facts. Most of the Planned Parenthood offices in Indiana, in fact, don't provide any abortion services (only 4 out of the 28 do). That accounts for only a fraction of one percent of their total work. The clinic's main role is to provide cancer screening, prenatal health care and preventative health screenings. The Indiana action will only impact patients receiving Medicare services. These patients account for only 2-3% of all the patients seen at PP offices, according to the agency records.
  • Educate Yourselves
    I live in Indiana and I'm tired of the uneducated state legislature wasting my tax dollars filing idiotic lawsuits (or defending themselves after stupid actions). If you don't want to accept federal funds, then refuse them. You cannot tell the federal government that Indiana won't meet the terms of accepting federal cash. It's like taking out a loan from the bank, signing the paperwork and then telling the bank you're not paying any interest. The governor and the majority of current crop of legislators should go home and do whatever it is they do there. The group only meets a few months a year; makes more than the average yearly income for many of their constituents; and spends most of the arguing things like this---or daylight savings time zones. It's an embarrassment.
  • Where's your values?
    God help us all when we have people like you who think that it's okay to kill babies because of convenience and money. Absolutely disgusting. Besides there are plenty of other clinics and resources available to the poor for medical care besides an abortion mill. Educate yourself please.
  • Where's the Logic?
    The majority of the citizens that utilize these abortion clinics are the poor lower class. The state will most likely close all the clinics thus allowing for more poor people to have children that they cannot afford. In most cases, the majority of the people using these clinics will turn to the government to pay for the child in the form of welfare. I do not get the logic of anti-abortion people. It saves the tax payers thousands of dollars to keep these clinics open rather than close them down.

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. A Tilted Kilt at a water park themed hotel? Who planned that one? I guess the Dad's need something to do while the kids are on the water slides.

  2. Don't come down on the fair for offering drinks. This is a craft and certainly one that belongs in agriculture due to ingredients. And for those worrying about how much you can drink. I'm sure it's more to do with liability than anything else. They don't want people suing for being over served. If you want a buzz, do a little pre-drinking before you go.

  3. I don't drink but go into this "controlled area" so my friend can drink. They have their 3 drink limit and then I give my friend my 3 drink limit. How is the fair going to control this very likely situation????

  4. I feel the conditions of the alcohol sales are a bit heavy handed, but you need to realize this is the first year in quite some time that beer & wine will be sold at the fair. They're starting off slowly to get a gauge on how it will perform this year - I would assume if everything goes fine that they relax some of the limits in the next year or couple of years. That said, I think requiring the consumption of alcohol to only occur in the beer tent is a bit much. That is going to be an awkward situation for those with minors - "Honey, I'm getting a beer... Ok, sure go ahead... Alright see you in just a min- half an hour."

  5. This might be an effort on the part of the State Fair Board to manage the risk until they get a better feel for it. However, the blanket notion that alcohol should not be served at "family oriented" events is perhaps an oversimplification. and not too realistic. For 15 years, I was a volunteer at the Indianapolis Air Show, which was as family oriented an event as it gets. We sold beer donated by Monarch Beverage Company and served by licensed and trained employees of United Package Liquors who were unpaid volunteers. And where did that money go? To central Indiana children's charities, including Riley Hospital for Children! It's all about managing the risk.