Indiana is the first state in the nation to bar federal tax dollars, in the form of Medicaid payments, from going to clinics that provide abortions.
Governor Mitch Daniels on Tuesday signed into law House Bill 1210, passed in the state House and Senate in April. The bill prohibits federal money given to the state for family planning services to be distributed to abortion providers, the largest of which is Planned Parenthood. It also bans abortions for women over 20 weeks pregnant.
“This law is a tremendous victory for the pro-life movement and for taxpayers who will no longer be forced to pad the profit line of Indiana Planned Parenthood abortion clinics,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, in a statement.
But the new law was quickly challenged by Planned Parenthood, which requested Tuesday that the law be temporarily blocked so it can prove HB1210 is unconstitutional and breaks federal law. A federal judge is expected to rule Wednesday afternoon on Planned Parenthood’s request.
According to Indiana Planned Parenthood, the hold is necessary because without federal money its clinics would be forced to turn patients away. Medicaid payments and federal grants make up 20 percent of Indiana Planned Parenthood’s annual budget, the group’s president, Betty Cockrum, told The Los Angeles Times.
American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana attorney Ken Falk also argues that federal law already prohibits the use of tax dollars to fund abortions so Planned Parenthood does not use federal money on abortion. Falk also contends that it is illegal for the state of Indiana to decide that Planned Parenthood cannot receive Medicaid funds when the federal government authorized the women’s health entity as a credible recipient of such money.
But Indiana’s Solicitor General, Thomas Fisher, argued on Tuesday that no hold on the law is needed because Planned Parenthood can continue to care for patients and submit Medicaid bills even one year later if the law is overturned, according to The Desert Sun.
Also, supporters of blocking tax dollars from being given to Planned Parenthood argue that even if federal funds are not directly used to pay for abortions, they are used to support non-abortion related activities that free funds for abortion services.
“If we’re buying the roof over their head or their paper clips, we’re still subsidizing abortion,” said Rep. Matt Ubelhor (R-Ind. 62nd District), who sponsored the bill, according to The Associated Press.
Gov. Daniels highlighted earlier before signing the bill the strong bipartisan support for the legislation in both legislative chambers. Last month, he also confirmed that women can receive “all non-abortion services, whether family planning or basic women’s health” in every one of the state’s 92 counties.
The move by Daniels, who is considering running for president, in signing the controversial abortion bill is interpreted by some political pundits as playing to the social conservative voting base. Daniels, a fiscal conservative, had drawn ire from social conservatives last June when he suggested that the group should compromise on social issues and focus on economic issues.
Although he gained the praise of social conservatives, Daniels risks losing $4 million in federal money for family planning services by barring abortion providing clinics from receiving such funds.
Other states are expected to follow Indiana’s decision to ban federal funds from abortion providers. An attempt in Congress to ban federal funds to Planned Parenthood failed last month in the Senate. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) was the driving force behind the Congressional effort to establish such a federal law. Last week, however, the House passed "The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," which would codify and make permanent the Hyde Amendment – which bars the use of federal funds for abortions – across the federal government.
[UPDATE] 5/11 2:50 p.m.
Judge Tanya Walton Pratt said Wednesday she will take more time to consider Planned Parenthood's challenge to the newly signed law. According to the Indianapolis Star, "a judge's reluctance to even temporarily put a law on hold does not bode well for the plaintiff."