INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s decision to deny Planned Parenthood Medicaid
funds because it performs abortions denies women the freedom to choose their
health care providers, a federal hearing officer said.
The state had asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in
Chicago to reconsider its June 2011 ruling that found changes in Indiana’s
Medicaid plan unacceptable. But a hearing officer recommended in documents
released Friday that a CMS administrator uphold the agency’s initial
The changes to Indiana’s plan resulted from a 2011 law that would have made
the state the first to deny the organization Medicaid funds for general
health services, including cancer screenings. The law has been on hold while
the dispute works its way through the courts.
The Indiana attorney general’s office, which already is appealing a federal
judge’s order blocking the law, said it may also contest the panel’s
recommendation. The state had argued that the dispute should be decided
administratively by the CMS, not in court.
“Because this is a recommendation, the Attorney General’s Office has a
chance to file an exception to it before the CMS administrator makes a final
decision,” the agency said in a statement.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana said it was gratified by the decision.
“Through its appeal, the State was continuing its attack on women’s rights
and attempting to restrict access to basic, lifesaving services such as Pap
tests, breast exams, STD testing and treatment, and birth control,” Betty
Cockrum, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, said in a
While Planned Parenthood officials had feared they might have to close some
of the organization’s 28 clinics in Indiana or suspend some services because
of a loss of Medicaid funds, that has not happened so far. Cockrum has said
about 9,300 women rely on Planned Parenthood for their health care.
Indiana had argued that Medicaid funds intended to help groups like Planned
Parenthood provide general health care would indirectly subsidize abortions.
The Hyde Amendment, a 1976 provision named after the late Rep. Henry Hyde,
R-Ill., bans all federal funds for abortion except in cases of rape, incest
or when the life of the mother is at risk.
The state also said Planned Parenthood could continue to receive Medicaid
funding if it established separate fiscal entities for abortion and other
health care. But CMS said such an option was premature.
Hearing officer Benjamin Cohen wrote that the Indiana law violated the
federal requirement that individuals must have the freedom to obtain care
from any qualified provider. Restricting that choice just because a care
provider also offers non-covered care isn’t allowed, he wrote.
Indiana asked the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago last August
to lift U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt’s June 24, 2011, preliminary
injunction blocking parts of the abortion law. The court has not yet ruled.
Another federal appeals court ruled in May that Texas cannot ban Planned
Parenthood from receiving state funds, at least until a lower court has a
chance to hear formal arguments. A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit
Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court that there’s sufficient evidence
the state’s law preventing Planned Parenthood from participating in the
Women’s Health Program is unconstitutional.