INDIANAPOLIS – Planned Parenthood of Indiana lost an initial legal battle Wednesday but is still fighting to block a law that strips it of about $1.5 million in federal money.
U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt denied a temporary restraining order to immediately halt enforcement of the law, which went into effect late Tuesday after Gov. Mitch Daniels signed it.
The court is not persuaded that Planned Parenthood of Indiana or its patients would be immediately and irreparably harmed, the judge said.
The new law denies state and federal funds to any entity that provides abortions. Hospitals are exempt.
Planned Parenthood argues the new statute violates a federal freedom of choice law and also that it is illegal for the state to unilaterally cancel contracts.
The decision leaves some patients at Planned Parenthood clinics in limbo as the organization decides whether to continue providing services to Medicaid-eligible Hoosiers without receiving federal dollars to cover the costs.
In addition to abortions, Planned Parenthood provides testing for sexually transmitted diseases, birth control, cancer screenings and more.
Obviously this decision is devastating, said Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana. Theres certainly a chance we will not see Medicaid patients.
She did not know when a decision would be made on that issue.
But others hailed the judges ruling – were thrilled, but we know that it is not over, said Sue Swayze, legislative director for Indiana Right to Life. This isnt about health care services. This is about abortion.
Abortions are provided at four Planned Parenthood locations, and federal and state law already prohibits the group from using tax dollars to fund the procedures.
Ken Falk, legal director for the ACLU of Indiana, which appeared in court on behalf of Planned Parenthood, conceded that getting a temporary restraining order is rare.
A temporary restraining order usually means the defense doesnt get to fully argue or brief the case, so the burden is high.
Pratt set a June 6 preliminary injunction hearing, which could still halt the law from taking effect.
She expects to make a decision by July 1.
Pratt – an Obama appointee – cautioned lawyers and reporters Wednesday that her initial ruling is not a signal of how she would decide the merits of the case.
Planned Parenthood has said 9,300 Medicaid patients will lose access to services. And without the federal dollars, Cockrum said the organization might have to close some of its 28 clinics and lay off dozens of employees.
But Pratt said those predictions were not enough to sway her, specifically noting that the organization continued treating patients Wednesday morning without federal funds and has other money to tap if needed.
Falk said you cant blame Planned Parenthood for trying to protect its patients.