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Vol. 75/No. 22      June 6, 2011

Abortion rights curbed
by Indiana state gov’t
Attacks fall hardest on working-class women
(lead article)
CHICAGO—Taking direct aim at women’s right to abortion, Indiana governor Mitch Daniels signed into law May 10 the first bill in the country prohibiting the use of Medicaid at clinics that provide abortion services.

Making clear the intent of the legislation is to deny women access to abortion, Daniels declared that after a “careful review” he was confident “that all nonabortion services … will remain readily available” across the state through other providers.

The law would affect seven organizations in the state that provide abortions, the largest being Planned Parenthood, according to the governor. In addition to blocking funding for Planned Parenthood, the bill bans abortions in the state after 20 weeks of pregnancy. A similar provision was signed into law in Nebraska in April 2010.

In 1973 the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot restrict abortion services before 24 weeks. In 1976 the Hyde Amendment was passed by Congress, prohibiting use of federal funds for abortions.

The Indiana law also requires that abortion providers discourage women from choosing the procedure by telling them that “life” begins at conception, that abortion causes infertility, and that fetuses can “feel” pain at 20 weeks or earlier.

In February the U.S. House of Representatives voted for a bill to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood and Title X, a program that supports birth control, cancer screenings, and testing for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The bill was dropped in a compromise congressional deal in which Democratic opponents of the proposal agreed to ban all government funds for abortion in the District of Columbia.

“Medicaid law is pretty clear: You cannot unplug a provider because they’re providing a constitutionally protected service,” Betty Cockrum, executive director of Planned Parenthood Indiana, told the press.

Planned Parenthood filed to suspend enforcement of the new law. On May 11 Federal District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt denied Planned Parenthood’s request for a temporary restraining order.

“The court’s ruling today means that 9,300 Medicaid patients at our 28 locations have lost services from their preferred provider,” Cockrum said. A majority of Planned Parenthood’s clinics are in lower income working-class areas.

Since the beginning of the year Virginia and South Dakota have also enacted new restrictions on abortion. Legislatures in Ohio and other states are considering bills similar to the one passed in Indiana.

Meanwhile, the number of abortion providers continues to decline, especially in rural areas. In 1976, there were only 10 states where 90 percent or more of the counties had no abortion provider. As of 2005 that was the case in 23 states.

A hearing on the request for an injunction against the Indiana legislation is scheduled for June 6.
Related articles:
Iowa legislators seek further limits on abortion
Defend women’s right to abortion!  
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