Seventh Circuit: Indiana Cannot Withhold Medicare Funds from Planned Parenthood
Today the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Planned Parenthood of Indiana v. Commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health [PDF], ruling that a 2011 Indiana state law (Ind. Code 5-22-17-5.5) banning “abortion providers from receiving any state-administered funds, even if the money is earmarked for [services other than abortion]” is unconstitutional. The appeal was brought by the State of Indiana when the District Court held that Planned Parenthood was likely to prevail on claims of violation of the Medicaid Act’s “free choice of provider provision” (42 U.S.C. 1396a(a)(23)) and preemption by the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), thereby enjoining Indiana from enforcing the law.
The Court of Appeals has affirmed the District Court on the issue of the free-choice-of-provider provision, agreeing that Planned Parenthood is likely to succeed on those grounds due to the fact that the statute is “individual rights language, stated in mandatory terms….” (citing Gonzaga University v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 284 (2002).) “The State does not have plenary authority to exclude a class or providers for any reason—more particularly for a reason unrelated to provider qualifications,” said the Seventh Circuit.
However, the Seventh Circuit reversed on the other claims made by Planned Parenthood, requiring that the scope of the injunction be modified. (Order, p. 4) The Court notes that “[i]t is settled law that the government’s refusal to subsidize abortion does not impermissibly burden a woman’s right to obtain an abortion,” and that since Indiana’s ban on funding does not directly violate the abortion right, it cannot be unconstitutional. The Court’s argument essentially seems to be that although the government cannot specifically impede the ability of a woman to procure an abortion, it does not need to clear a path to obtain the abortion. (Order, pp. 42–48)
(photo: Shutterstock: 85452175)