Obama’s Justice Department Files Last-Minute Brief in Support of Planned Parenthood

By Dave Andrusko

Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher

With U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt on the brink of a decision in a suit brought by Planned Parenthood of Indiana, the Obama Administration submitted a brief yesterday supporting PPI’s request for an injunction to block a provision in an Indiana law that denies state-directed funding for businesses and organizations performing abortions, except for hospitals or ambulatory surgical centers. Although there have been different numbers mentioned, PPI would apparently lose $1.4 million in Medicaid funding if it chooses to continue to perform abortions.

The Associated Press reported that the brief was filed electronically after the close of business and that PPI’s attorney, Ken Falk, said, “I had no idea this was coming.”

May 10, the same day Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the law, PPI was in court seeking  an immediate injunction to block enforcement of the law. Pratt denied that request but following June 6 oral arguments by Falk and Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher, Pratt indicated she would rule by July 1, later changing the date to next Monday.  PPI told Pratt that was the day they anticipated running out of donations that PPI  says has funded care for Medicaid clients since the bill was signed into law.

The lawsuit is separate from the offensive unleashed by the Obama administration against the law. However the decision by Dr. Donald Berwick, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, not to  approve changes to Indiana’s Medicaid plan was front and center.

“Medicaid programs may not exclude qualified health care providers from providing services that are funded under the program because of a provider’s scope of practice,” Berwick wrote Patricia Cassanova, the director of Indiana’s office of Medicaid Policy and Planning. “Such a restriction would have a particular effect on beneficiaries’ ability to access family planning providers.”

According to the AP’s Ken Kusmer, the 23-page brief addressed one of Fisher’s primary contentions. In his brief Fisher had said Berwick’s letter “was not final and authoritative because Indiana can appeal his decision.”

But the Justice Department brief “said the letter was indeed authoritative because the Department of Health and Human Services, which administers the Medicaid program, was applying its ‘longstanding interpretation of the complex and technical Medicaid statute’ with the letter, which rejected changes to Indiana’s Medicaid plan to account for the new state law, Kusmer reported.

For more about the case see www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2011/06/judge-hears-final-arguments-in-indiana-funding-law/ and the June/July issue of National Right to Life News. If you are not a subscriber, call us at 202-626-8828.

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