WASHINGTON — The United States Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal regarding whether the state of Indiana has the right to bar the abortion provider Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funds, allowing a lower court ruling to stand.
The high court issued the denial with no comment on Tuesday, which disappointed pro-life organizations throughout the state.
“Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize the state’s largest abortion business,” declared Indiana Right to Life President and CEO Mike Fichter in a written statement following word of the decision. “Even if Planned Parenthood is instructed to use tax dollars for nonabortion activities, then they are free to use other funds for growing their abortion business.”
Governor Mike Pence stated that he was likewise displeased with the denial.
As previously reported, in May 2011, then-Governor Mitch Daniels signed a bill into law that denied funding to “any entity that performs abortions or maintains or operates a facility where abortions are performed.” While Indiana already prohibited federal and state funding from being used for most abortions, the new law barred Medicaid funds from going to abortion-related organizations at all, even if they provide other services besides abortion.
However, following its enactment, Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit against the state, alleging that the law barred low-income women from choosing their own healthcare provider. It also claimed that Planned Parenthood would have to close 28 of its facilities throughout Indiana if it did not receive Medicaid funding. The Obama administration filed a supportive brief to back Planned Parenthood.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who argued on behalf of the state, noted in court briefs that residents have a variety of other medical facilities to choose from where they may obtain health services that are covered under medicare, and that the state should have a right to determine how taxpayer funds are used.
In October of last year, a panel of three Republican judges with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Planned Parenthood.
“The defunding law excludes Planned Parenthood from Medicaid for a reason unrelated to its fitness to provide medical services, violating its patients’ statutory right to obtain medical care from the qualified provider of their choice,” wrote Judge Diane Sykes, who composed the 49-page opinion on behalf of the panel.
She then stressed the court’s belief in the “right” to abortion, and advised that the state must be careful to not indirectly limit access to abortion while simultaneously withholding taxpayer funds from known abortion providers.
“It is settled law that the government’s refusal to subsidize abortion does not impermissibly burden a woman’s right to obtain an abortion,” Sykes continued. “If a ban on public funding for abortion does not directly violate the abortion right, then Indiana’s ban on other forms of public subsidy for abortion providers cannot be an unconstitutional condition that indirectly violates the right.”
Judge Sykes was appointed to the bench by George W. Bush in 2004. She was joined in the ruling by Judge Michael Kanne, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1987.
The third judge, Richard Cudahy, appointed by Jimmy Carter in 1979, said that he agreed with the results of the ruling, but dissented partly, stating that the court prematurely concluded that the law denied access to abortion.
Over a dozen states across the country have passed similar legislation, but courts in half of those states have ruled that it is unlawful to specifically target Planned Parenthood as citizens should be able to choose whichever Medicaid provider they wish.
Indiana Representative Marlin Stutzman told reporters that despite the ruling, he will “continue to fight on the federal level” against Planned Parenthood for “as long as they are performing abortions.”