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Indiana asks court to lift Planned Parenthood order

August 1, 2011

Indiana asked a federal appeals court Monday to lift a judge's order blocking parts of a new abortion law that cuts some public Planned Parenthood funding, saying the issue should be decided by Medicaid officials and not the courts.

The 44-page brief asks the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to reverse U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt's June 24 preliminary injunction, which barred the state from cutting Medicaid funds to the organization because it provides abortions.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller's filing Monday came just days after the state complied with the injunction by giving Planned Parenthood a $6,000 grant.

The filing is the latest legal salvo since Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the law May 10, temporarily cutting off about $1.4 million to Planned Parenthood of Indiana.

Planned Parenthood immediately challenged the law but was forced to briefly stop seeing Medicaid patients while it awaited Pratt's ruling after private donations ran out.

Indiana has argued that federal law forbids Medicaid to cover abortions in most circumstances and that the program indirectly funds the procedures because Planned Parenthood's financial statements show it commingles Medicaid funds with other revenues. The state has argued Medicaid might subsidize some overhead costs for space where abortions are performed.

In its brief filed Monday, Indiana says federal Medicaid officials, not the courts, should determine the law's legality. The state is appealing Medicaid Administrator Donald Berwick's June 1 decision rejecting changes to Indiana's Medicaid plan brought on by the new law. Berwick contended Medicaid recipients have the right to obtain treatment from any qualified provider, including those that provide abortions.

A hearing on the Medicaid appeal is scheduled for Sept. 13 in Chicago.

"This dispute belongs between the state and the federal government that administers and funds the Medicaid program, not between a private contractor and the state," Zoeller said in a statement. "The proper place to argue this dispute is the federal government's own administrative hearing process, established for exactly this purpose. We hope the 7th Circuit will agree, reverse the U.S. District Court's decision and allow the administrative review to run its course."

Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Kate Shepherd said the organization was reviewing the filing and has 30 days to respond, but declined to comment further. Shepherd previously has said the organization believes it can continue to get funding under Pratt's ruling even with the state's appeal because the injunction would stand unless it were overturned by another judge.

The organization serves about 9,300 Indiana clients on the state-federal health insurance plan for low-income and disabled people.

Indiana's legal action Monday came just three days after an agency reversed course and gave Planned Parenthood of Indiana $6,000 in neighborhood assistance grants.

The Indiana Housing Community and Development Authority said in June it would not give Planned Parenthood any grants because of the new state law, but it changed course Friday.

"With the new ruling, we determined that treating Planned Parenthood different than any other applicant would violate the injunction," said IHCDA spokeswoman Emily Duncan.

The $6,000 should help the group leverage $12,000 in donations, said Planned Parenthood of Indiana President and CEO Betty Cockrum.

She said the money will help Planned Parenthood provide preventive health care to low-income men and women in Marion County. The group has used the tax credit the last two years to raise $21,000 for its health services.

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