UPDATE: Judge allows state to cut Planned Parenthood funds

Indiana won a key victory in its fight to cut off public funding for Planned Parenthood on Wednesday when a federal judge refused to block a tough new abortion law from taking effect.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt denied Planned Parenthood of Indiana's request for a temporary restraining order despite arguments that the law jeopardizes health care for thousands of women.

Planned Parenthood wanted to keep funds flowing while it challenges the law signed this week by Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels. The judge's decision allows the cuts to take effect immediately.

Pratt said the state has not had enough time to respond to Planned Parenthood's complaint and that the group did not show it would suffer irreparable harm without a temporary restraining order.

The funding cuts are part of a new law that also bans abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy unless there is a substantial threat to the woman's life or health.
That's four weeks less than previously allowed.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana conducts more than 5,000 abortions annually.

The law could improve Daniels' image with social conservatives as he considers a 2012 run for president. Advocates are touting Indiana as the one of the most "pro-life states in the nation" and praising Daniels for signing the law.

The bill was originally intended to cut all public funding, but Planned Parenthood of Indiana spokeswoman Kate Shepard said the state conceded in court Tuesday that some family planning funds would not be affected. The total amount of funding at issue now is about $1.4 million, Shepard said.

The law also puts Indiana at risk of losing $4 million a year in separate federal family planning grants. The abortion provisions would take effect July 1.

Daniels didn't advocate publicly for the bill, and it wasn't part of his legislative agenda. But he said he supported the abortion restrictions from the outset and that the provision added to defund abortion providers did not change his mind.

He signed the bill into law Tuesday along with 79 other bills. The organization says the money is used for services such as birth control, cancer screening and tests for sexually transmitted diseases.

Planned Parenthood says the measure is unconstitutional and violates federal law. It says 22,000 patients could be left without access to Pap tests and other non-abortion services.

Agency President Betty Cockrum said Planned Parenthood  will use its Women's Health Fund to cover the cost of patients who rely on federal funding for birth control or health exams.

"It's very bad for the state of Indiana," Cockrum said of the law. "It's a very bad direction for public health policy."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the request for an injunction and temporary restraining order on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana. ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk said the judge heard arguments from both sides on the temporary restraining order seeking to prevent the defunding the state's 27 Planned Parenthood locations. He said the public funding has nothing to do with abortion and is used to provide necessary medical services, primarily to women.

"Family planning dollars fund preventive health services that are critical to low-income and vulnerable women and their families," Falk said. "It is unlawful, unnecessary and cruel to deny these populations health services that they desperately need."

Cockrum and Falk declined to comment on how long Planned Parenthood would be able to continue seeing patients.

Indiana Right to Life President Mike Fichter said Planned Parenthood was trying to use a "delay tactic" to keep public funding coming as long as possible. He said he was confident the law would stand.

"Governor Daniels has now established Indiana as one of the leading pro-life states in the nation," he said in a statement Tuesday.

Daniels says he'll decide soon whether to seek the GOP nomination. Republican supporters say his support for the abortion bill will trump any concerns social conservatives had over the truce on social issues.

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