A Victory for Women’s Reproductive Rights in Indiana

Jun 26 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

The Honorable Tanya Walton Pratt

We previously reported here on the State of Indiana’s war on Women’s Reproductive Rights. President Obama told Mitch Daniels “no” in June and with ACLU in its corner, Planned Parenthood took Indiana to court. U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, Indiana’s first African-American federal judge, who back in May first denied Planned Parenthood of Indiana’s (PPIN) request for a temporary restraining order against Indiana’s HEA 1210, has as of Friday granted its motion for a preliminary injunction on the state’s attempt to defund the organization.

Judge Pratt wrote in her decision:

“Further, in light of recent events, the public interest also tilts in favor of granting an injunction. The federal government has threatened partial or total withholding of federal Medicaid dollars to the State of Indiana, which could total well over $5 billion dollars annually and affect nearly 1 million Hoosiers. Thus, denying the injunction could pit the federal government against the State of Indiana in a high-stakes political impasse. 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. With this backdrop in mind, along with the reasons discussed above, the Court believes the most prudent course of action is to enjoin the defunding provision while the judicial process runs its course.”

It’s a classic eleventh hour reprieve: PPIN has been without funding since May 10, subsisting on donations. PPIN says it already “had to stop seeing Medicaid patients Tuesday, lay off two employees, and furlough all employees for one day.” It was being forced to contemplate closing some of its 28 centers in the state. It is important to stress that this is a reprieve only; and Judge Pratt’s decision was a mixed bag:

PPIN also contended that thanks to HEA 1210, its health care professionals would be forced to make statements to patients that are not medically and scientifically based, also in violation of the U.S. Constitution.  Judge Pratt agreed and ruled that portions of the law requiring medical professionals to say that a fetus can feel pain at or before 20 weeks post-fertilization will not go into effect July 1.  However, a portion requiring that medical professionals tell a woman that human physical life begins at conception must be implemented.

But even so PPIN says that the injunction “is excellent news for the organization. It means that PPIN can once again be reimbursed for the preventive health care it provides its 9,300 Medicaid patients and is now restored as a preferred provider under Medicaid and will remain as such as the lawsuit continues and until a final resolution is reached.” Says PPIN President and CEO Betty Cockrum:

“This decision will have immediate, positive consequences for our patients and our organization, the state’s largest reproductive health care provider. This ruling means we can once again provide Pap tests, breast exams, STD testing and treatment and birth control to both existing and new Medicaid patients.  It also means that we have avoided the difficult decision to close health centers and lay off more staff members while the permanent injunction we are seeking is pending.”

American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana (ACLU of Indiana) Legal Director Ken Falk says,

“This is a positive step in what likely will be a long legal battle,” Falk said.  “We are encouraged by the judge’s ruling, but know our work is not yet done.”

As a reminder, HEA 1210:

  • Requires that a physician determine the postfertilization age of a fetus before performing an abortion, and allows for the discipline of a physician who fails to do this in certain circumstances.
  • Adds information that a pregnant woman must be informed of orally and in writing (current law requires that the information be given only orally) before an abortion may be performed concerning the physician, risks involved, information concerning the fetus, available assistance, and existing law.
  • Requires a pregnant woman seeking an abortion to view fetal ultrasound imaging unless the pregnant woman states in writing that the pregnant woman does not want to view the fetal ultrasound imaging.
  • Requires a physician who performs an abortion to: (1) have admitting privileges at a hospital in the county or in a contiguous county to the county where the abortion is performed; or (2) enter into an agreement with a physician who has admitting privileges in the county or contiguous county; and notify the patient of the hospital location where the patient can receive follow-up care by the physician.
  • Requires the state department of health to post Internet website links on the state department’s web site to materials setting forth certain information concerning a fetus and abortion.
  • Prohibits qualified health plans under the federal health care reform law from providing coverage for abortions except for in certain circumstances.

Those funding the war against Women’s Reproductive Rights, like Indiana Right to Life, are outraged, portraying the case not as a war on Women’s Reproductive Rights but a war by the federal government against the state. Never mind that the federal government is our sole guarantor of the U.S. Constitution and that part of the Constitution’s role is to protect us from the tyranny of state legislatures.

Indiana Right to Life’s president Mike Fichter, “condemned the Obama administration for siding with the abortion business.” He told LifeNews:

“Last night’s after-hours brief by the U.S. Justice Department urging a federal judge to block Indiana’s right to defund Planned Parenthood is just one more stunning example of why we must all stand together in this fight to defend Indiana’s sovereignty against a federal administration that is bent on defending the business of killing unborn children. Abortion supporters are pouring money in to Indiana hand-over-fist because they know all eyes of the nation are now on the Hoosier state.”

PPIN says they “remain hopeful” but acknowledge that the “journey is far from over.” Indiana, for its part, must now decide how to respond. Marcus Barlow, a spokesman for the state’s Family and Social Services Administration is does not yet know if it will appeal the decision but word from the State Attorney General’s office is that the state will appeal.




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