INDIANAPOLIS - Today a federal appeals court heard the State of Indiana's appeal in the legal challenge to the new state law that prohibited Medicaid funding for abortion services providers. The State is asking the federal appeals court to reverse a lower court ruling so that a new Indiana law passed by the Legislature can take effect.
The United States 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago heard oral arguments today in the interlocutory appeal the State filed seeking to lift a preliminary injunction that had blocked the new state law from being enforced. By law, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller's Office defends state statutes from legal challenges brought by plaintiffs. Indiana Solicitor General Thomas M. Fisher argued the State's case today in the 7th Circuit.
The three-judge panel heard arguments from the State and from plaintiff Planned Parenthood of Indiana. During the hearing the judges posed questions of attorneys for both sides and took the case under advisement; the panel will rule at a later date.
"In passing House Enrolled Act 1210 into law, the Legislature decided it does not want indirect funding of abortion services through tax dollars. The State has every right to defend that statute from the plaintiffs' legal challenge and to ask the 7th Circuit to eliminate the injunction the lower court ordered so the State can enforce the statute," Zoeller said.
"Moreover, we contend this Medicaid funding dispute should be decided not as a lawsuit between a private health care provider and the State, but instead as an administrative appeal between the State and a federal government agency," Zoeller added.
The Legislature passed House Enrolled Act 1210 prohibiting health care providers that perform abortion services from receiving Medicaid dollars. Planned Parenthood filed a legal challenge against it the day the law took effect, and on June 24, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt entered a preliminary injunction preventing the new law from being enforced. The State then filed an interlocutory appeal in the 7th Circuit that was argued to the three-judge panel today.
Separately, the State also has filed an administrative appeal of the federal government's decision to not approve its Medicaid plan amendment that under HEA 1210 had withheld Medicaid funding for abortion providers. The State requested a rehearing of that ruling from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). A hearing on the administrative appeal of the Medicaid plan denial is scheduled for the CMS regional office in Chicago on December 15.
The State filed its brief Tuesday in the CMS administrative appeal that argues Indiana's Medicaid plan amendment resulting from HEA 1210 still complies with federal law, and that CMS should have approved it and not denied it. "In short, nothing on the face of HEA 1210 dictates that there must be a reduction in Medicaid providers, much less does it target elimination of all patient choices in an entire field of medicine. Only through actual enforcement of the law, which has been preliminarily enjoined by a federal district court, can anyone know the actual impact of HEA 1210. Accordingly, a decision rejecting Indiana's plan amendment on the assumption that it will reduce patient choice is premature at best," contends the State's brief in the CMS administrative appeal.
There will not be additional court proceedings in the Planned Parenthood legal challenge in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis until the 7th Circuit panel decides the State's appeal of the preliminary injunction.
NOTE: The State's brief in support of its Petition for Rehearing, filed Tuesday as part of an administrative appeal to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Regional Office, is attached.
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