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Indiana Planned Parenthood Ruling: Federal Appeals Court Says State Can't Cut Funding Over Abortions

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The state of Indiana cannot withhold Medicaid funding from the local Planned Parenthood affiliate because some of its clinics offer abortions, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a June 2011 injunction from a lower-court judge blocking a law that would have prevented Planned Parenthood of Indiana from participating in the state's Medicaid program.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also spoke out against the law at the time, arguing in a letter to Indiana's state Medicaid director that the proposed change violates federal Medicaid rules by restricting beneficiaries' freedom to choose any qualified health care provider.

"We're really pleased, particularly in Indiana where the economy continues to be a challenge, that it's so clearly affirmed by the Seventh Circuit Court that it's appropriate for us to continue to serve as Medicaid providers," Planned Parenthood of Indiana President Betty Cockrum told HuffPost on Tuesday. "We've got 9,300 Medicaid patients, men and women, who rely on us for health and family planning services such as birth control, pap tests, breast exams and STD tests."

Planned Parenthood of Indiana receives about $3 million a year from the federal government and serves about 22,000 low-income patients using Titles X, V, and XX and Medicaid funds.

The Hyde Amendment already prohibits the federal funding of abortion services, except in cases of rape or incest, so the Medicaid money that flows to Planned Parenthood clinics can only be used for other health care and family planning services. But state Republican lawmakers in Indiana argued when they passed the defunding law that taxpayers do not want to support an organization that performs abortions, regardless of who pays for those services.

"The fundamental issue is that when we take tax dollars and fund any entity that performs abortions, we're forcing taxpayers to support a practice that many feel is objectionable," State Sen. Scott Schneider (R-Indianapolis), the author of the provision to cut Planned Parenthood's funding, told HuffPost in an April 2011 interview.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the class action lawsuit on behalf of Indiana Medicaid recipients, applauded the appeals court's decision on Tuesday.

"This law was an attempt by politicians to punish organizations that are providing legal services," said Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "Elected officials should not place politics above women's health."

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