October 22, 2012 — U.S. District Judge Neil Wake on Friday issued a temporary injunction prohibiting Arizona from enforcing a state law (HB 2800) barring public family planning funding to organizations that also provide abortion services, Reuters reports (Gaynor, Reuters, 10/20).
In July, Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit to block the law from taking effect on Aug 2. The law establishes a system for distributing public funds for family planning, with priority going to government-run facilities, followed by hospitals, rural health clinics and private physicians. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Justin Olson (R), has said the legislation is meant to target Planned Parenthood (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/9).
Details of Ruling
Wake's ruling blocks the law while the underlying legal challenge proceeds (Fischer, Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Sun, 10/20). He indicated that the plaintiffs are likely to prevail in the pending trial and scheduled a hearing for Dec. 6 to set future proceedings (AP/Modern Healthcare, 10/20).
In his ruling, Wake wrote that the argument that giving money to Planned Parenthood effectively subsidizes abortions "ignores evidence that Planned Parenthood Arizona complies with all federal and state requirements to ensure that public funds are not used for abortion services" (Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Sun, 10/20). He also noted that there is no excess money that could be redirected toward abortion care because the Medicaid reimbursements for covered services only pay for about half the cost of care.
Wake added that federal law allows Medicaid beneficiaries to choose their health care providers. "Simply put, a state's determination of whether a provider is qualified to perform Medicaid services must at least be related to Medicaid services," he said, adding, "The fact that the plaintiff providers perform legally protected abortions does not affect their ability to perform family planning services for Medicaid patients."
Wake noted that there is a public interest in blocking implementation of the law because it would result in about 3,000 patients being denied the opportunity to obtain care from the provider of their choice (AP/Modern Healthcare, 10/20).
Battle Over Planned Parenthood Funding Become National Issue
Lawmakers' efforts to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood in Arizona, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and other states have helped propel the organization to the forefront of national political debates, the Washington Post reports.
However, as the organization has increasingly become a symbol of partisan battles over reproductive health, its mission of providing women with accessible health services has been "threatened," according to the Post.
Jill June, president of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said the attention to women's health and rights is both good and bad. Although the issues are getting more recognition, "[w]e are having to defend ourselves when what we want to do is provide care," she said (Somashekhar, Washington Post, 10/20).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership