Abortion debate rages in Northwest Indiana

Law cutting funding to Planned Parenthood puts issue front and center.

May 12, 2011

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(Photo by Michael Puente/WBEZ)
A receptionist at a Planned Parenthood office in Gary, Indiana speaks to a patient Thursday morning.

Indiana is the nation’s first state to bar federal Medicaid funding for abortion providers, and Planned Parenthood was squarely in legislators’ sights.

A federal judge yesterday denied an injunction to keep the law from taking affect.

The law has stirred up emotions in the abortion debate.

When the doors opened this morning at a Planned Parenthood office in Gary, patients who showed up were in for shock because a common payment option is no longer available.

But, patients did receive the customary medical documents.

RECEPTIONIST: Go ahead and filled those out for me. Top part there the next one is front and back. And when you’re done please bring those back to me and thank you.

But when this patient returned to the counter, the receptionist provided some new information.

RECEPTIONIST: We may not be able to bill Medicaid but we are going to take care of you. We expect the situation to be resolved quickly but we need to reschedule you if for any reason you didn’t quality for the funding we would have to reschedule you for …

But before the receptionist could explain … the patient … who asked not to be identified … didn’t quite understand what was going on. 

RECEPTIONIST: We may not be able to bill Medicaid.

WOMAN: Why is that?

RECEPTIONIST: Governor Mitch Daniels passed a bill. It’s basically saying we can’t get federal funding because Medicaid is federal funding, we can’t accept your Medicaid here today.

WOMAN: What am I supposed to do now? Find somewhere else to go? I don’t understand it. It took me a whole month to get Medicaid in the first place and I can’t use it.

Planned Parenthood office manager Maritza Torres assured the woman that she would be seen today and Planned Parenthood would pay for the service through a special backup fund for low-income people.

But those funds aren’t going to last forever. In fact, they may run out this weekend.

But again, that’s an emergency fund …

Torres says Indiana lawmakers cut Medicaid funding because they don’t know all the services Planned Parenthood provides.

For one, they serve a lot of men, too.

She says the office sees a lot of African-American women for general health problems, like hypertension.

TORRES: The sad part is they have no other places to go. We are the only medical people they see.

But Torres doesn’t shy away from the fact that Planned Parenthood provides reproductive services - including alternatives to abortion such as adoption.

TORRES:  We focus more on getting them on birth control so they won’t have to focus on making a decision like that. We don’t like say, ‘Hey you need an abortion?’ Here are your choices.

But not everyone in Northwest Indiana buys the argument that Planned Parenthood deserves funding …

The state’s Republican Governor Mitch Daniels is staunchly anti-abortion. He says he signed the legislation because most Hoosiers support it.

One of those is Victor Davis, pastor at Spirit of God Fellowship church in Gary.

He says abortion is a very personal issue to him.

DAVIS: My mother was pregnant prior to me and she aborted that child. And when I came, she attempted to abort me. It has impacted me personally in a very, very strong way.

Davis says his mother wanted to abort him because of financial pressures of having six other children.

He says he and mother shared a strong bond and he didn’t know of his situation until adulthood following her passing.

Davis says abortion impacts African-Americans the most.

DAVIS: For us, especially in the black community, we are disproportionally victimized through abortion. We’ve lost our minority status as the number one minority in the nation simply because we are disproportionally killing our unborn children for whatever the cause.

Davis says women have other options to turn to for health care needs beyond Planned Parenthood.

That’s the same argument Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels laid out when he signed Indiana’s abortion law.