Planned Parenthood Fights Defunding Laws

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Obama Administration Weighs In

In Indiana, Planned Parenthood is fighting a law that bans Medicaid funds from going to health centers that provide abortions.

The law went into effect immediately after it was signed in May, instantly slashing about $1.3 million from Planned Parenthood's budget.

The group sued for an injunction on the law to keep funds flowing, which was granted last week. Throughout the monthlong funding gap, Planned Parenthood was able to continue seeing Medicaid patients because of the nearly $100,000 in private donations sent from around the world.

"We've been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support," said Kate Shepherd, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Indiana. But, she added,"It is as with a natural disaster when you see donations flood in and then trickle off. We can't sustain it."

Shepherd said that without public funding, Planned Parenthood Indiana would have to close eight of its 28 centers.

"It would be a huge blow because many of our counties are already underserved, according to the federal government," she said. "Many are in more rural areas. If we were to leave, there aren't a lot of options that accept new Medicaid patients."

The U.S. Department of Justice issued a brief on behalf of Planned Parenthood, saying the Indiana law violated Medicaid's federally mandated provision allowing people to choose any qualified provider for their care. The Department of Health and Human Services denied the state's new Medicaid regulations for the same reason. The Obama administration warned that it could halt all Medicaid funds to Indiana if the law was upheld.

Schneider said who the state decides to do business with was a state's rights issue and that the federal government was overstepping its authority by getting involved in the case.

"The Obama administration is trying to beat states into compliance by using federal money or by using a ruling out of HHS to try to force its policy on the states," Schneider said.

Paige Johnson, vice president for public affairs at Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, said the plethora of state laws targeting Planned Parenthood are "purely political" and a direct result of Republicans sweeping the 2010 midterm elections.

"This is really, surely a political move on the part of conservative Republicans to mobilize their base in 2012," she said. "North Carolina is going to play heavily in national politics and it is part of their strategy."

Planned Parenthood funding will be cut off in North Carolina today when the state's budget goes into effect. The law specifically denies Planned Parenthood's receiving state money.

"This is an unprecedented move," Johnson said. "North Carolina has never singled out a medical provider and said, You can't do business with the state."

Planned Parenthood is also challenging a law in Montana that prohibits the states' low-income insurance program from covering birth control costs. The law has been on the books for almost a decade. After failed attempts to change it in the legislature, Planned Parenthood filed its lawsuit about a year ago.

The Montana Department of Justice said that while the state cannot prevent people from buying contraceptives, the Constitution does not require the state to subsidize it.

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