INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana stepped between women and their physicians when it enacted a law that blocked Medicaid funds for Planned Parenthood just because the organization provides abortions, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld a lower court’s finding that Indiana violated federal regulations when it enacted a law that denied Planned Parenthood Medicaid funds for general health services including cancer screenings.
The ruling is the latest setback in conservative efforts in several states to cut off funding for abortion providers that judges say go too far, intruding on women’s right to choose their own medical care.
On Friday, a federal judge blocked Arizona from applying a similar law to Planned Parenthood. Also last week, Texas released new rules for a state women’s health program requiring officials to shut down the program entirely if a court asks the state to include providers tied to groups like Planned Parenthood. The state broke the program off from Medicaid funding after federal officials determined it violated women’s right to choose their own doctor.
And earlier this month, Oklahoma withdrew federal funding to three Planned Parenthood clinics in Tulsa that for 18 years has allowed them to provide food and nutritional counseling to low-income mothers.
Ken Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana that handled the case, said that while people often associate Planned Parenthood with abortion, it also is a critical provider of non-abortion-related health services to both women and men.
“It’s all kind of part and parcel of an attack on Planned Parenthood generally,” said Betty Cockrum, president of Planned Parenthood of Indiana.
Mallory Quigley, spokeswoman for the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, said 14 states have either enacted or introduced measures to end taxpayer funding for abortion providers over the past two years.
Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager for Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights nonprofit whose numbers are widely respected, said the defunding laws were part of a broad attack not just on abortion but family planning.
“In 2011 we saw this just kind of tidal wave … the [biggest] number of abortion restrictions that have ever become law,” Nash said Tuesday. “And as part of this we also saw an attack on family planning.”
Indiana Right to Life Legislative Director Sue Swayze said there was no basis for that argument.