News Contraception

Federal Judge Grants Temporary Injunction Against Indiana Law De-funding Planned Parenthood

Jodi Jacobson

In an important victory for women in Indiana and elsewhere, a federal judge has granted a preliminary injunction halting enforcement of an Indiana law barring Planned Parenthood Indiana from participating in the state's Medicaid program.

In a critical victory for the women of Indiana, a federal judge tonight granted a preliminary injunction halting enforcement of an Indiana law barring Planned Parenthood Indiana (PPIN) from participating in the state’s Medicaid program. 

This week, PPIN was forced to furlough employees throughout the state in an effort to ensure that clinics would not be forced to close.  Contributions poured into Indiana from across the country and the world, allowing PPIN to continue serving low-income women while the case proceeded, though these funds began to run out this week and clinics were forced to turn away Medicaid patients in need of care. The court decision means that once again women who utilize the Medicaid program can go to their preferred provider to receive crucial primary and preventive health care, including screening and referrals for breast and cervical cancer, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, contraceptive care, prenatal care, and other services.

“Today’s ruling is a true victory for women and women’s health,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “As a result, women and families in Indiana will continue to get the care they need and deserve. For 95 years, Planned Parenthood has been a trusted health care provider for millions. We look forward to continuing to provide preventive and primary care in Indiana.”

Judge Pratt agreed with PPIN’s claim that the new law runs afoul of federal law by depriving Medicaid patients of their choice of health care provider.

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“This decision will have immediate, positive consequences for our patients and our organization, the state’s largest reproductive health care provider,” said PPIN President and CEO Betty Cockrum.  “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.”   

In a brief filed in federal court, the U.S. Department of Justice argued that the court should enjoin further implementation of the Indiana law with respect to Medicaid:

“Because the Indiana law violates the Medicaid statute’s freedom of choice provision and because the public interest strongly supports preserving the freedom of choice that Congress conferred…”

Earlier this month, on June 1, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a letter denying the state of Indiana’s request to amend its Medicaid state plan to implement recently enacted legislation barring Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program. The HHS letter states that the proposed change, which would disqualify eligible providers solely because of the scope of services they provide, violates the Medicaid statute.

Advocates note that this victory is likely only the beginning in a series of legal challenges against unconstitutional legislative attacks on women’s health that seek to end family planning and preventive care, and undermine Planned Parenthood. Similar efforts to bar Planned Parenthood from participating in federal health programs have either passed into law or are on the verge of being passed in Kansas, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin.  Eleven states have either passed or proposed defunding Planned Parenthood specifically, or Title X and other famliy planning funds more generally, all of which would have the most egregious effects on women living at, just above, or below the poverty line.

“What we’re seeing right now is the most aggressive legislative assault on women’s health in a generation.  Today’s court decision makes clear that it is unacceptable, especially at a time when women need more access to health care, for states to tell women that they cannot go to Planned Parenthood to get primary and preventive health care,” said Richards. “Planned Parenthood will do everything we need to do to protect women’s health and access to primary and preventive health care.”

PPIN was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana (ACLU of Indiana), with Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) also providing legal assistance.

News Politics

Tim Kaine Changes Position on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back the Hyde Amendment's ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate, has promised to stand with nominee Hillary Clinton in opposing the Hyde Amendment, a ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday that Kaine “has said that he will stand with Secretary Clinton to defend a woman’s right to choose, to repeal the Hyde amendment,” according to the network’s transcript.

“Voters can be 100 percent confident that Tim Kaine is going to fight to protect a woman’s right to choose,” Mook said.

The commitment to opposing Hyde was “made privately,” Clinton spokesperson Jesse Ferguson later clarified to CNN’s Edward Mejia Davis.

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Kaine’s stated support for ending the federal ban on abortion funding is a reversal on the issue for the Virginia senator. Kaine this month told the Weekly Standard  that he had not “been informed” that this year’s Democratic Party platform included a call for repealing the Hyde Amendment. He said he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

Repealing the Hyde Amendment has been an issue for Democrats on the campaign trail this election cycle. Speaking at a campaign rally in New Hampshire in January, Clinton denounced Hyde, noting that it made it “harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.”

Clinton called the federal ban on abortion funding “hard to justify” when asked about it later that month at the Brown and Black Presidential Forum, adding that “the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.”

Clinton’s campaign told Rewire during her 2008 run for president that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

The Democratic Party on Monday codified its commitment to opposing Hyde, as well as the Helms Amendment’s ban on foreign assistance funds being used for abortion care. 

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back Hyde’s ban on federal funding for abortion care.

When asked about whether the president supported the repeal of Hyde during the White House press briefing Tuesday, Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said he did not “believe we have changed our position on the Hyde Amendment.”

When pushed by a reporter to address if the administration is “not necessarily on board” with the Democratic platform’s call to repeal Hyde, Schultz said that the administration has “a longstanding view on this and I don’t have any changes in our position to announce today.”

News Politics

Congresswoman Pushes Intersectionality at Democratic National Convention

Christine Grimaldi

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) charges that reproductive health-care restrictions have a disproportionate impact on the poor, the urban, the rural, and people of color.

The members of Congress who flocked to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week included a vocal advocate for the intersection of racial and reproductive justice: Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

Watson Coleman’s longstanding work in these areas “represented the intersection of who I am,” she said during a discussion in Philadelphia sponsored by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Cosmopolitan. Reproductive health-care restrictions, she stressed, have a disproportionate effect on the poor, the urban, the rural, and people of color.

“These decisions impact these communities even more so [than others],” she told Rewire in an interview. “We don’t have the alternatives that middle-class, suburban, white women have. And we’d rather they have them.”

Watson Coleman has brought that context to her work in Congress. In less than two years on Capitol Hill, she co-founded the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls and serves on the so-called Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, a GOP-led, $1.2 million investigation that she and her fellow Democrats have called an anti-choice “witch hunt.”

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Coleman said she’s largely found support and encouragement among her fellow lawmakers during her first term as a woman of color and outspoken advocate for reproductive rights.

“What I’ve gotten from my Republican colleagues who are so adamantly against a woman’s right to choose—I don’t think it has anything to do with my being a woman or an African American, it has to do with the issue,” she said.

House Republicans have increasingly pushed anti-choice policies in advance of the ongoing August recess and November’s presidential election. The House this month passed the Conscience Protection Act, which would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face supposed coercion to provide abortion care or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in such care.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) lauded passage of the bill and the House’s thus-far unsuccessful effort to prove that Planned Parenthood profited from fetal tissue donations—allegations based on widely discredited videos published by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-choice front group that has worked closely with GOP legislators to attack funding for Planned Parenthood.

On the other side of the aisle, Watson Coleman joined 118 other House Democrats to co-sponsor the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act (HR 2972). Known as the EACH Woman Act, the legislation would overturn the Hyde Amendment and ensure that every woman has access to insurance coverage of abortion care.

The Hyde Amendment’s restriction of federal funding for abortion care represents a particularly significant barrier for people with low incomes and people of color.

The Democratic Party platform, for the first time, calls for repealing the Hyde Amendment, though the process for undoing a yearly federal appropriations rider remains unclear.

For Watson Coleman, the path forward on getting rid of the Hyde Amendment is clear on at least one point: The next president can’t go it alone.

“The president will have to have a willing Congress,” she said. She called on the electorate to “recognize that this is not a personality contest” and “remove some of those people who have just been obstructionists without having the proper evidence.”

In the meantime, what does a “willing Congress” look like for legislation with anti-choice roadblocks? A majority voting bloc helps, Watson Coleman said. But that’s not everything.

“There are lots of bills that Republicans will vote for if their leadership would simply bring them up,” she said.