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The irony in a consistent philosophy

Conservatives may not like last week’s federal appeals court decision that keeps money flowing from the state treasury to Planned Parenthood. But supporters should also consider what the decision means.

The reasoning that supports continuing the state funding for Planned Parenthood is, in many ways, the same argument for supporting vouchers for parochial schools. Conversely, the argument that no tax money should go to Planned Parenthood for medical services should also mean taxpayer subsidies of a religious ministry through vouchers are wrong.

In upholding an injunction that prohibits the state from enforcing a 2011 state law to cut off Medicaid money going to Planned Parenthood, the appeals court noted that federal law governing Medicaid requires that “any individual eligible for medical assistance ... may obtain such assistance from any institution, agency, community pharmacy, or person, qualified to perform the service or services required.”

The law, the court noted, “establishes a personal right to which all Medicaid patients are entitled.”

In other words, the patient chooses the qualified provider, whom the state must pay.

Critics of Planned Parenthood funding, generally conservatives, insist that because some Planned Parenthood offices offer abortions, any Medicaid funding of cancer screenings or pregnancy tests or contraception at the organization constitutes an indirect subsidy of abortion. Medicaid cannot be used to pay for abortions.

At the same time, critics of school vouchers, generally liberals and some moderates, believe money going to parochial schools is a taxpayer subsidy for religion, which is banned by the Indiana constitution. But the U.S. Supreme Court and a lower Indiana court have ruled that vouchers essentially go to the parents, who decide whether to send their children to parochial schools. In other words, the parent chooses the qualified education provider, which the state must pay.

Of course, philosophical consistency does not equal legal consistency. Indeed, the state’s position is that it is up to the General Assembly to decide whether the state should finance Planned Parenthood and whether the state should offer parochial school vouchers. Lawmakers, the state contends, get to decide what is best for constituents.

And neither legal case is over. The state Supreme Court will hear the voucher case. The Medicaid case still has a long way to go, with last week’s decision concerning an injunction, not the underlying lawsuit.

But legislators tend to back popular positions of the masses while courts tend to emphasize individual liberties. Don’t be surprised if the courts ultimately back individual choice, upholding the voucher law and striking down the move to cut off Planned Parenthood.

Early voting

The Allen County Election Board office at Calhoun and Superior streets is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through Friday as well as 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Early votes can also be cast next Monday from 8 a.m. to noon.

Tracy Warner, editorial page editor, has worked at The Journal Gazette since 1981. He can be reached at 461-8113 or by email,