Monday, November 20, 2017

Appeals court blocks Indiana from defunding Planned Parenthood

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana can't block Medicaid funds for Planned Parenthood just because the organization provides abortions, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday, upholding the crux of a lower court order that said the state couldn't deny patients the right to choose their own health care provider.

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 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.

Ken Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana that handled the case, said that while people associate Planned Parenthood with abortion, it also is a critical provider of nonabortion-related health services to women and men.

Mallory Quigley, spokeswoman for the antiabortion Susan B. Anthony List, said 14 states have either enacted or introduced measures to end taxpayer funding for abortion providers in the past two years.

Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights nonprofit, said the laws were part of a broad attack not just on abortion but also on family planning.

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