Feds say Indiana’s Planned Parenthood law is illegal

June 2, 2011

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(Photo by Getty Images)
An anti-abortion protestor at a rally in Washington, D.C. in April.

President Obama’s administration took its first stab Wednesday at reversing Indiana’s controversial ban on funds to agencies offering abortion services, primarily Planned Parenthood.

Donald M. Berwick, administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, sent a letter to Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration. Berwick says the law improperly bars Medicaid beneficiaries from receiving services from a qualified provider, as federal law requires. Indiana could face penalties if the law isn’t changed, Berwick warned.

But Bryan Corbin, spokesman for the Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, said the state intends to fight for the law.

“We are reviewing the Center for Medicaid Services letter with our client, the Family and Social Services Administration to determine our client's options, but we will continue to defend the statute,” Corbin told WBEZ.

The Republican-led Indiana General Assembly approved the bill in late April. It was signed in early May by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, also a Republican, even though Daniels had sought a “truce” on social issues. The law bans $3 million the state receives from going to any agency that provides abortion services or to agencies that deal with Planned Parenthood.

The law also bans abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy unless there is a substantial threat to the woman's life or health.

At the time, it was thought that Daniels signed the legislation to appease conservatives as he contemplated a run for the Republican nomination for president, which he ultimately decided against. Daniels explained, however, that he supports the law because a majority of Hoosiers oppose abortion. He says women can obtain health care needs from providers other than Planned Parenthood.

Daniels said agencies that lost funding can have them restored if they cut ties to Planned Parenthood of Indiana. Planned Parenthood officials say 9,300 low income Hoosier women will or have lost coverage because of the new law.