Indiana won a key victory in its fight to cut off public funding for Planned Parenthood Wednesday when a federal judge refused to block a tough new abortion law from taking effect, a move that could boost Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels' image among social conservatives as he considers running for president.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt denied Planned Parenthood of Indiana's request for a temporary restraining order despite arguments that the law jeopardizes health care for thousands of women.
Planned Parenthood wanted to keep funds flowing while it challenges the law signed this week by Daniels. The judge's decision allows the cuts to take effect immediately.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the request for an injunction and temporary restraining order on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana. ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk said he was preparing for a hearing June 6 on the preliminary injunction.
"We're obviously disappointed but we have a preliminary injunction hearing to prepare for," Falk said Wednesday.
'This is about abortion'
Sue Swayze, legislative director for Indiana Right to Life, said she was thrilled with the judge's decision not to issue a temporary restraining order.
"This isn't about health care services," she said. "This is about abortion."
Pratt said the state has not had enough time to respond to Planned Parenthood's complaint and that the group did not show it would suffer irreparable harm without a temporary restraining order.
The funding cuts are part of a new law that also bans abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy unless there is a substantial threat to the woman's life or health.
The law could improve Daniels' standing among social conservatives as he considers standing for president in 2012. Advocates tout Indiana as the one of the most "pro-life states in the nation" and have praised Daniels for signing the law.
The measure wasn't part of Daniels' legislative agenda and he didn't advocate publicly for it. But he said he supported the abortion restrictions all along and that the move to defund Planned Parenthood hadn't changed his mind.
The bill was originally intended to cut all public funding, but Planned Parenthood of Indiana spokeswoman Kate Shepard said the state conceded in court Tuesday that some family planning funds would not be affected. The total amount of funding at issue now is about $1.4 million, Shepard said.
The law also puts Indiana at risk of losing $4 million a year in separate federal family planning grants. It also bans abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy unless there is a substantial threat to the woman's life or health. That's four weeks less than previously allowed.
The abortion provisions would take effect July 1.