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Anti-Choice Zealots Don't Care About Depriving Poor and Minorities of Cancer Screenings, Birth Control

Conservative efforts to restrict reproductive rights at the state level are an attack on the poor and minorities.

In early May, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed one of the most draconian anti-choice laws in the country,  HB 1210. Among other heinousness, the law codifies what radical anti-choicers call ‘fetal pain,’ and requires a woman who has already decided to have an abortion to gaze at ultrasound images and listen for the flutter of a fetal heartbeat right before the emotionally charged procedure.

HB 1210 also strips existing and future Medicaid payments from “any entity that performs abortions or maintains or operates a facility where abortions are performed.” (Hospitals are exempt.) For those who don’t speak Radical Republicanese, “entity” means “Planned Parenthood,” which runs 28 health centers across the state.

Proponents in the Hoosier House and Senate insist that Medicaid users won’t suffer because they have plenty of reproductive healthcare options. But according to the Indiana “Journal Gazette,” that’s kinda not true. Of an April 27th hearing,  the paper reported:

“Minutes before the Indiana House voted on the bill to defund Planned Parenthood and other health care providers, two lawmakers backing the bill held up a handmade map covered in colored dots. The map, they said, showed [clinics] that could bridge the gap if Planned Parenthood lost funding. … ‘In every circumstance but one, there is another provider nearby,’  Rep. P. Eric Turner, R-Cicero [said].’


The list provided by House Republicans and on their website includes health service providers that have nothing to do with women’s reproductive health, sexual health or family planning. They include a Salvation Army addiction center, a homeless shelter, several mental health centers, a juvenile detention center and the Indiana Women’s Prison.”

Perhaps sensing that homeless shelters and prisons aren’t the most appropriate source of Pap smears and clinical breast exams, the feds intervened. In a June 1 letter, Dr. Donald Berwick—the Obama appointee who heads up the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services—told Indiana officials that the law violates Medicaid patients’  legal right to choose their health care provider. 

Although the feds could withhold  some $4 million in family planning grants, Indiana isn’t backing down. Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for state attorney general Greg Zoeller, told Chicago’s WBEZ-91.5, “We are reviewing the Center for Medicaid Services letter with our client, the Family and Social Services Administration to determine our client’s options, but we will  continue to defend the statue.”

While Indiana’s anti-abortion Republicans (and a select few Democrats) dig in their heels, thousands of people who use Medicaid to pay for birth control, STD testing and treatment, cervical cancer screening and breast exams are at risk.

Of the 85,030 women, men and young adults that Planned Parenthood Indiana (PPIN) served last year, 73 percent were white, 17 were black and 7 percent were Latino. Of its 9,300 Medicaid patients, six percent were Latino and a whopping 40 percent were black.  Forty percent . In other words, African-Americans are particularly vulnerable to state lawmakers’ funding games. 

I asked PPIN’s president and CEO Betty Cockrum to weigh in this latest attack on the nonprofit. Lightly edited excerpts of our exchange:

How does the state ban on Medicaid funds for Planned Parenthood of Indiana fit into the big anti-choice picture?

Cockrum: It’s very clear that when Congress voted against de-funding Planned Parenthood on the national level, anti-choice groups switched their focus to the states. Here in Indiana, there was a defunding measure that had died, only to have [its] language amended into another bill. This happened after efforts to cut off federal funding failed. Other states are seeing similar attempts, so it does appear to be part of a national strategy to force Planned Parenthood to stop doing abortions in order to receive public funding.

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