Indiana can't end Planned Parenthood funds: judge

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - A judge on Friday granted a preliminary injunction preventing the state of Indiana from enforcing a law that eliminated funding to Planned Parenthood because it performs abortions.

Members of Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America and more than 20 other organizations hold a "Stand Up for Women's Health" rally in support of preventive health care and family planning services, including abortion, in Washington April 7, 2011. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The Republican-led Indiana legislature had voted to strip the women’s health group of funding, including money from the federal Medicaid program for the poor, and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed the legislation into law.

But the decision by U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt grants a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the ban on Planned Parenthood offices in Indiana receiving reimbursement for Medicaid claims.

“This decision means that Planned Parenthood of Indiana can once again be reimbursed for the preventive health care it provides its 9,300 Medicaid patients,” Planned Parenthood of Indiana (PPIN) said in a statement.

Indiana is one of three states that cut funds for Planned Parenthood because it performs abortions. The others are Kansas and North Carolina but they cut only state funding and not federal Medicaid funds.

Responding to the ruling, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said: “We will thoroughly review the ruling but it is likely that the State of Indiana will seek an ...appeal to the U.S. 7th Circuit (court).”

A spokesman for Gov. Mitch Daniels said the governor would not be issuing a statement on the ruling at this time.

But both sides agree the fight over federal funding for abortions in the state is not over. Indiana officials have been battling to defend the new law in the courts and through administrative reviews.

“This is a positive step in what likely will be a long legal battle,” said Ken Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana. “We are encouraged by the judge’s ruling, but know our work is not yet done.”

Planned Parenthood said the judge’s ruling noted that public interest “tilts in favor” of granting the injunction because federal officials threatened partial or total withdrawal of all Medicaid dollars to the state, a loss of as much as $5 million if the law was enforced.

“If dogma trumps pragmatism and neither side budges, Indiana’s most vulnerable citizens could end up paying the price as the collateral damage of a partisan battle,” the judge said in the opinion quoted by Planned Parenthood.

Stopping the cuts is the “most prudent course of action” while the judicial process runs its course, Pratt wrote.

PPIN had stopped seeing Medicaid clients on Tuesday after the organization ran out of money to cover those patients.

“This ruling means we can resume providing Pap tests, breast exams, STD testing and birth control to both existing and new Medicaid patients,” said PPIN president Betty Cockrum.

Pratt’s ruling came down on both sides on two other issues in contention, PPIN said.

The portion of the law that requires health care providers to say a fetus can feel pain at or before 20 weeks after fertilization will also not go into effect. But the section that requires medical professionals to tell a woman that human physical life begins at conception must be implemented.

(This story corrects name of judge in first reference)

Writing by Greg McCune and Susan Guyett. Editing by Peter Bohan