Four states have passed legislation defunding Planned Parenthood so far this year, but the family planning provider is not going down without a fight. A federal judge in Indiana sided with Planned Parenthood against the defunding law on Friday, blocking its implementation, and now the legal battle is moving to Kansas.
After a month of court hearings, Judge Tanya Walton Pratt decided to grant a preliminary injunction against a new law that blocks Planned Parenthood of Indiana (PPIN) from participating in the Medicaid program. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services already denounced the defunding law in a letter issued earlier this month because the proposed change violates federal Medicaid rules by denying Medicaid patients the freedom to choose a qualified provider.
Pratt said the Health Department's disapproval of the new law, which could jeopardize all $4 million of Indiana's federal planning money, weighed heavily on her decision.
"Denying the injunction could pit the federal government against the State of Indiana in a high-stakes political impasse," she told the court. "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.”
As a result of the injunction, PPIN will immediately resume serving its Medicaid patients, many of whom had been using it as their primary health provider.
“This decision will have immediate, positive consequences for our patients and our organization," PPIN President and CEO Betty Cockrum said in a statement. “This ruling allows us to resume providing Pap tests, breast exams, STD testing and treatment and birth control to both existing and new Medicaid patients.”
Planned Parenthood said its victories in court and with the federal government bode well for the legal battles it plans to fight in other states. The Kansas-based chapter filed a lawsuit in federal district court on Monday that seeks to block the enforcement of a defunding amendment recently passed by the Kansas legislature. Unlike the Indiana law, the Kansas law cuts off all Title X funding to Planned Parenthood, so that it will no longer be able to provide family planning and preventive health care services on a sliding-fee scale to more than 5,700 low-income patients.
A staff attorney for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America said the law "impermissibly penalizes" Planned Parenthood because the organization provides abortion services, even though Title X family planning funds are already prohibited from paying for abortions. The defunding amendment also unfairly punishes low-income and uninsured patients by restricting their ability to choose a health provider.
“It’s disappointing that instead of focusing on expanding family planning and sex education programs, we are once again having to spend time responding to politically-motivated health care attacks," said Peter Brownlie, president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. "Planned Parenthood will continue to stand up for Kansans’ right to access affordable, quality reproductive health care."
Planned Parenthood is also considering legal action in Wisconsin and North Carolina, the third and fourth states to pass defunding laws this year.