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US Supreme Court declines to take Indiana Planned Parenthood cases

May 28, 2013

The Supreme Court of the United States on Monday denied certiorari to two cases stemming from an Indiana law disqualifying a health care provider in participating in a government program because it provides abortion care.

The U.S. justices considered Planned Parenthood of Indiana v. Secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, 12-1159; and Secretary of the Ind. FSSA v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana, 12-1039, at its conference Thursday.

Judge Tanya Walton Pratt in the Southern District of Indiana granted a preliminary injunction against enforcement of I.C. 5-22-17-5.5(b) that bars providing state or federal funds to “any entity that performs abortions or maintains a facility where abortions are performed.” Planned Parenthood and other plaintiffs sued after the defunding law was enacted in 2011. The law prohibits abortion providers from receiving any state-administered funds, even if the money is earmarked for other services.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the injunction in October 2012.

In the case brought by Planned Parenthood, the plaintiffs wanted the Supreme Court to determine whether the law imposes an unconstitutional condition in violation of the 14th Amendment. In the suit brought by FSSA, the agency challenged the decision that Medicaid grants individual rights enforceable under U.S.C. Section 1983. The 7th Circuit ruled that the defunding law excludes Planned Parenthood from Medicaid for a reason unrelated to its fitness to provide medical services, thus violating its patients’ statutory right to obtain medical care from the qualified provider of their choice.

Proceedings had been stayed in the case brought by Planned Parenthood in federal court until a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We are happy that the Supreme Court’s action lets stand the appeals court ruling that the state does not have plenary authority to exclude a class of providers for any reason. Federal law protects the right of Medicaid patients to choose a health care provider free of interference from the state,” ACLU of Indiana Executive Director Jane Henegar said in a statement. The ACLU represented the plaintiffs in the case.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller also issued a statement on the Supreme Court decision.

"My office always contended this is ultimately a dispute between the state and federal government, not between a private medical provider and the state. We defended the legal authority of the people's elected representatives in the Indiana Legislature to make a public policy decision to ensure that tax dollars not indirectly subsidize abortion services by funding the payroll and overhead expenses of abortion providers who also offer Medicaid-covered services. We respect the federal courts' rulings in this matter and will confer with our state agency clients regarding any remaining legal avenues, including the separate administrative appeal of the state's Medicaid plan,” Zoeller said.

The justices also denied certiorari to a petition brought by Michael Dean Overstreet. Overstreet was sentenced to death in 2000 for the abduction, rape and murder of Franklin College student Kelly Eckart in 1997. His convictions and sentence have been affirmed by the Indiana Supreme Court, as well as a petition for post-conviction relief.

Overstreet appealed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the District Court’s decision to deny his petition for writ of habeas corpus regarding his sentence.
 

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