Federal judge Tanya Walton Pratt has overturned provisions of an Indiana law that blocks Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood because some of its clinics perform abortions. In denying funding, Indiana invoked its authority to determine the qualifications of a provider. However, Judge Pratt responded that the services offered by a provider were unrelated to its qualifications and therefore not a legitimate consideration. She also cited a recent federal Medicaid ruling warning states that they could not exclude qualified providers simply because they performed abortions.
Although federal law already bans the use of Medicaid money to pay for abortion services, the Indiana statute goes further by refusing funding to “any entity that performs abortions or maintains or operates a facility where abortions are performed.” It calls for the immediate termination of state contracts with such providers, hospitals excluded.
On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court issued the Roe v. Wade decision affirming a woman's right to an abortion under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Subsequent rulings confirmed that the right exists up until viability. Although Roe v. Wade remains controversial, it has been the law of the land for almost forty years. While conservatives decry the heavy hand of the state as a health care regulator, Republican-controlled state legislatures have shown little compunction in passing laws intending to erode Roe and in effect restrict abortion rights.
Judge Pratt's opinion alludes to the likelihood that suits challenging the Indiana legislation were likely to prevail. Perhaps. But conservative judicial activism is driven more by ideology than legal interpretation. Is the eventual upholding the Indiana statute a foregone conclusion?