Stay strong, Indiana!

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department entered the court battle over a tough new Indiana abortion law that disqualifies Planned Parenthood of Indiana from the Medicaid program, siding with the organization in its request Thursday for a court order blocking the statute as unconstitutional.

In a brief filed electronically after the close of business, Justice Department attorneys said U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt should grant Planned Parenthood’s request for an injunction because it blocks Medicaid recipients’ freedom to choose the provider of their choice. The law signed May 10 by Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels cuts off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood because the organization provides abortions.

“The public interest strongly supports preserving the freedom of choice that Congress conferred,” the brief said.

It was unclear how the last-minute filing would affect the timing of Pratt’s ruling. She has said she intended to rule by July 1.

Planned Parenthood attorney Ken Falk said the brief caught him by surprise.

“I had no idea this was coming,” Falk told The Associated Press Thursday evening.

The brief was consistent with earlier actions by federal administrators for Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for low-income and disabled people. Medicaid Administrator Donald Berwick sent a letter to his Indiana counterpart on June 1 saying federal law states beneficiaries can obtain general health services from any qualified provider and the mere fact that Planned Parenthood performs abortions separately does not disqualify it.