Local News Politics

Lawmaker Apologizes For Tone of Girl Scouts Criticism

Indiana state Rep. Bob Morris has apologized for the tone of his criticism of the Girl Scouts, but says he stands behind his allegations regarding the group’s national leadership.

Morris drew a firestorm of criticism and a bit of ridicule from some of his Republican colleagues this week when he called the Girl Scouts a radical group that supports abortion and homosexuality. He refused to sign a House resolution passed last week honoring the group on its 100th anniversary.

In a letter to the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Morris called his remarks “emotional, reactionary and inflammatory,” adding that he shouldn’t have painted the entire organization with a wide brush.

But Morris says he stands by his contention that the scouts’ national leadership has pursued an affiliation with Planned Parenthood.

Girl Scout officials have denied the lawmaker’s claims and say issues such as sex education and abortion should be left for scouts to discuss with their families.

(Information for this story also came from the Associated Press)

Local News Politics

Indiana Lawmaker Stands By Criticism of Girl Scouts

Undaunted by a day of ridicule from the leader of his own party, an Indiana state lawmaker said yesterday he’s standing by his allegations that the Girl Scouts is a radical organization that promotes abortions and homosexuality.

Both the scouts and Planned Parenthood dismissed Rep. Bob Morris’ comments as absurd, as did Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma. But the Fort Wayne Republican told WRTV in Indianapolis that people need to scrutinize the 100-year-old scouting organization.

“What I suggest and urge parents to do is do their own research. That’s what my wife I did. Do your own research in regards to the Girl Scouts,” he said.

Morris’ comments were the butt of jokes inside the House on Tuesday, with Bosma spending much of the day handing out Thin Mints to lawmakers. He joked that Morris’ comments led him to buy hundreds of cases of the famous Girl Scout cookies.

Morris’ comments about the Girl Scouts came in a letter he sent to House Republicans on Saturday that accused the scouts of being a “tactical arm” of Planned Parenthood. The Girl Scouts flatly denied Morris’ charges, and Planned Parenthood of Indiana issued a separate statement calling Morris’ charges “woefully inaccurate.”

(Information for this story came from the Associated Press)

Local News Politics

Arguments Heard in Planned Parenthood of Indiana Funding Appeal

Arguments have been made in the case of an Indiana law that blocked public funding for abortion providers.

Public funds cannot currently pay for abortions, but the law is based on the idea that giving any Medicare or Medicaid dollars to Planned Parenthood for other medical procedures helps to subsidize abortion.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU challenged the law, saying the state cannot limit patients’ choice, and the courts have thus far sided with them. The state argues that not only is the legislation legal, but that any challenges to it should be secondary to a federal dispute.

The federal government has rejected Indiana’s attempts to bring Medicare and Medicaid regulations in line with the new law. The federal government has also threatened to strip Indiana of all of its Medicaid funding if the law remains in place. An appeal to that matter will be heard in December.

Local News Politics

Indiana AG Appeals Planned Parenthood Ruling, Organization Looks to Kansas Case for Encouragement

The Indiana Attorney General’s office has filed its brief in the defense of a state law that defunds Planned Parenthood.

The law passed the General Assembly this year and blocks Medicaid funding from any organization that provides abortions. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and the American Civil Liberties Union have challenged the law, and won a temporary injunction in June.

Further, the federal government has rejected Indiana’s attempt to move state Medicaid rules in line with the law. In the brief, Attorney General Greg Zoeller argues that the state’s feud with the federal government should take precedent over any court challenges.

“This dispute belongs between the state and the federal government that administers and funds the Medicaid program, not between a private contractor and the state,” said Zoeller in a statement. “The proper place to argue this dispute is the federal government’s own administrative hearing process, established for exactly this purpose. We hope the 7th Circuit will agree, reverse the U.S. District Court’s decision and allow the administrative review to run its course.”

But Planned Parenthood of Indiana President Betty Cockrum says that’s too abstract.

“The one thing it overlooks is that the defunding in particular had a very significant and adverse effect on Planned Parenthood of Indiana and his argument entirely forecloses any action on our part to seek relief for that,” she says.

Before the injunction was issued, Planned Parenthood planned layoffs, furloughs and office closures to make up for loss of Medicaid funds. The organization serves about 9,300 Medicaid patients in Indiana.

The appeal takes the case to the Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. A Kansas judge recently ruled in Planned Parenthood’s favor in a similar case.

“Same arguments, same response. There are nuances and differences and all that but it’s one more favorable review,” says Cockrum, adding that the Kansas ruling gives her confidence in another legal victory for her organization.

The appeal will be heard in the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

Local News Politics

Planned Parenthood Of Indiana Gets State Grant

From the Associated Press:

Indiana officials are reversing course and giving Planned Parenthood of Indiana $6,000 in neighborhood assistance grants.

The organization’s president and CEO Betty Cockrum says the grants should help the group leverage $12,000 in donations.

The money comes from the Indiana Housing Community and Development Authority. The agency said in June it would not give Planned Parenthood any grants because of a new state law that blocks funds to the organization because it provides abortions. But it relented last week following a federal judge’s decision in late June to temporarily block the new law.

Cockrum says the money will help Planned Parenthood provide preventive health care to low-income men and women in Marion County.

Local News Politics

Indiana Attorney General Appealing Latest Ruling in Planned Parenthood Case

Officials with Planned Parenthood of Indiana say they are not surprised that the state attorney general is appealing a recent court ruling in favor of the group.

After a law blocking state funding from any organization that provides abortions took effect, Planned Parenthood filed suit. Late last week, a judge issued a temporary block on the law until the case is settled.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office has appealed the ruling. The state is also appealing a federal decision that blocked Indiana’s attempt to change Medicaid rules and bring them in line with the new law. The cases will likely both be heard by the appeals court. A loss to Planned Parenthood would mean the law could not be enforced. A loss to the federal government would mean the state’s roughly $4 billion Medicaid allotment would be cut off.

The federal government and Planned Parenthood both argue that the state government cannot restrict Medicaid patients’ access to care. Zoeller’s office contends that the law–as it was passed by the state legislature–is sound. Further, the office contends that the federal dispute should take priority over Planned Parenthood’s case.

Local News Politics

Injunction Granted in Indiana Planned Parenthood Case

A federal judge in Indiana has stopped the enforcement of a state law that strips Planned Parenthood–and any other organizations that provide abortions–of public funds.

The decision is in line with a recent opinion from the U.S. Justice Department, which contends that states cannot restrict Medicaid patients’ access to care. But while the law will be blocked, the judge agreed that further review is in order. Friday’s decision only means the law will not be enforced until a ruling is made in a suit brought by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The law took effect in May, but, through donations, Planned Parenthood of Indiana was able to continue providing most medical services to its 9,300 Medicaid patients. Last Monday, the donations ran out and the organization stopped serving patients who couldn’t pay out of pocket or through private insurance plans. Further, two specialists in Muncie were laid off.

Planned Parenthood officials celebrated the decision. The organization issued a statement saying the two specialists can return to work until a final ruling in the case is made.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has also sided with Planned Parenthood, and the state is appealing a rejection of its attempt to bring Medicaid regulations for Indiana in line with the law.

“We will thoroughly review the ruling but it is likely that the State of Indiana will seek an interlocutory appeal to the U.S. 7th Circuit, the same court that would ultimately review the administrative appeal of Indiana’s Medicaid plan in the dispute between the State of Indiana and the federal government,” said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s spokesman Bryan Corbin in a statement.

Zoeller’s office argues that the dispute between Indiana and the federal government should take precedent over any civil actions against the new law.

If Indiana loses its appeal, the state could lose $4 billion in Medicaid funding.

Local News

Indiana Attorney General Responds To PPIN Lawsuit

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office filed a brief today in response to the lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and the ACLU.  The lawsuit is aimed at overturning a new Indiana law that strips Medicaid funding from abortion providers.

There is already a law preventing public funding from paying for abortions, but the brief states that the new law is targeted at preventing the indirect subsidy of abortions.

The U.S. Justice Department has sided with the group, saying the state cannot limit Medicaid patients’ options for care and threatening that Indiana could lose all of its Medicaid funding if the law stands.

Planned Parenthood has been using private donations to continue offering services, but that funding ran out this week; and the organization has furloughed workers and begun a process of scaling back services until this lawsuit is resolved.

Local News Politics

Planned Parenthood to Make Cuts as Donations Run Out

The donations have run out for Planned Parenthood of Indiana, and layoffs, furloughs and service cuts are forthcoming.

Planned Parenthood has been using donations to pay for services to its 9,300 Medicaid patients since May, when Governor Mitch Daniels signed a law stripping the agency of its $1.4 million in public funding.

But the donations have run out and a hoped-for ruling in a legal challenge to the law hasn’t arrived. Organization officials say that leaves them with no choice but to begin cutting staff and services.

No services will be provided to Medicaid patients unless they can pay out of pocket. Two specialists at the Muncie branch will be laid off. And most employees will be furloughed without pay later this week.

The U.S. Justice Department has taken Planned Parenthood’s side in the challenge to the law, and a ruling is due by July 1st. A spokeswoman says if the judge’s ruling isn’t favorable, more layoffs and office closures will likely be necessary.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller says the law is fair and his office will continue to defend it. The state is appealing to change its rules for receiving Medicaid funding to accommodate the new law.

Local News Politics

Planned Parenthood Donations to Last Through June 20

Ever since Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed a law stripping Planned Parenthood of public funding, donations have poured in from around the country, allowing the organization to continue serving Medicaid patients. But those donations are set to dry up in one week.

At first, Planned Parenthood said the donations would last until early May…then mid May…then early June. Now, president Betty Cockrum says June 20th is the last day that donations will cover the costs for existing Medicaid patients…and she means it.

“This was a one-time response nationwide because people wanted to show their support and because they were angry about this defunding,” she says.

Planned Parenthood is seeking to have the new law blocked. A ruling in their challenge to the measure is expected by July 1st. Further, the federal government has said it could cut off Indiana’s Medicaid funds if the law is still enforced. Indiana receives about $4 billion in Medicaid funding. Planned Parenthood previously received between $1 and $3 million of that money.