WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court dealt a setback Tuesday to the campaign of abortion opponents to "defund" Planned Parenthood.
Without comment, the justices turned away Indiana's defense of a 2011 law that would ban all Medicaid funds to an organization such as Planned Parenthood whose work includes performing abortions.
The high court let stand decisions by a federal judge in Indiana and the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago that blocked the measure from taking effect. The "defunding law excludes Planned Parenthood from Medicaid for a reason unrelated to its fitness to provide medical services, violating its patients' statutory right to obtain medical care from the qualified provider of their choice," Judge Diane Sykes said last year for the 7th Circuit.
The Obama administration had joined the case on the side of Planned Parenthood and argued that the Medicaid law gives eligible low-income patients a right to obtain health care from any qualified provider. This is known as the free-choice-of-provider rule.
More than 9,300 Medicaid patients in Indiana go to Planned Parenthood clinics for routine medical exams, cancer screening and birth control, the lower court said.
At issue in the case was how far states can go to prevent indirect subsidies for abortion. Congress forbids the spending of federal funds to pay for elective abortions. Indiana has a similar provision in state law.
Two years ago, Indiana lawmakers voted to go further and forbid the spending of any Medicaid money — federal or state — through "any entity" whose facilities perform abortions. Hospitals and state-licensed surgical clinics were exempted. But Planned Parenthood went to federal court and sued on behalf of a doctor, a nurse and two patients.
Arizona's Legislature passed a similar measure, but it too has been blocked by a federal judge.
Indiana's attorney general appealed to the Supreme Court and urged the justices to review the case and revive the state's law.
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, welcomed the court's decision.
"All women, no matter where they live, should be able to get quality, affordable health care from the health care provider they know and trust," she said.