State appeals injunction blocking abortion law

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Indiana's attorney general on Tuesday appealed a judge's ruling that blocked key aspects of a new state law that cut some public funding for Planned Parenthood because the organization provides abortions.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed a notice of appeal with the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, a move that was expected after U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt issued a preliminary injunction last week blocking parts of the law.

The injunction was granted as part of a lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood of Indiana. The state will submit the legal basis for its appeal later, but in its failed attempt to block the injunction, it argued that a separate challenge to the law was the proper forum to determine its legality, not Planned Parenthood's challenge.

In that case, 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 that Medicaid recipients have the right to obtain treatment from any qualified provider, including those that provide abortions. The state filed that appeal with Berwick's office on Thursday, and if the two sides can't work out a compromise, that dispute would also likely land before the appeals court in Chicago, Zoeller told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

"There is this process between the federal and state governments which is the proper process by which these things are resolved," Zoeller said.

Indiana's appeal seeks a review of the preliminary injunction before any further action is taken on Planned Parenthood's lawsuit, which seeks a permanent injunction against the law. The injunction Pratt issued Friday would remain in effect while the appeal is pending.

When Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the law May 10, it immediately cut off about $1.4 million to Planned Parenthood and made Indiana the first state to deny the organization Medicaid funds for general health services, including cancer screenings. The law's other provisions are set to take effect July 1, but Pratt also issued a preliminary injunction blocking one of those — a requirement that doctors providing abortions inform their patients that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks of gestation or sooner.

Planned Parenthood, which serves about 9,300 Indiana clients on the state-federal health insurance plan for low-income and disabled people, went without Medicaid funding after the law took effect but continued seeing Medicaid patients until last week, when private donations that paid those patients' bills ran out. It resumed seeing Medicaid patients after Pratt ruled.

"We are confident we will prevail in our legal arguments and find it regrettable that the Indiana Attorney General has chosen to invest even more state resources in an appeal," Betty Cockrum, the head of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, said in a statement.

The state has argued that Medicaid, even though it does not fund abortions in most cases, indirectly subsidizes the procedures at Planned Parenthood because the organization's financial statements show it commingles Medicaid funds with other revenues, and the public money might pay some of the overhead costs for space where abortions are performed. Planned Parenthood conducts more than 5,000 abortions a year in Indiana.

Pratt noted in her ruling that the administration of President Barack Obama had threatened to withhold some or all of Indiana's Medicaid funds because of the new law, which could total more than $5 billion annually and affect nearly 1 million residents. A federal Medicaid bulletin issued the same day as Berwick's decision rejecting the Indiana changes said states cannot exclude qualified health care providers merely because they also provide abortions.

"Thus, denying the injunction could pit the federal government against the State of Indiana in a high-stakes political impasse," the judge wrote. "And if dogma trumps pragmatism and neither side budges, Indiana's most vulnerable citizens could end up paying the price as the collateral damage of a partisan battle."

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