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.