July 20, 2012 — Arizona will defer enforcement of a new law barring public family planning funding to organizations that provide abortion services, in order to give the state more time to respond to a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood, the Arizona Daily Star reports (Fischer, Arizona Daily Star, 7/20).
The law (HB 2800), signed by Gov. Jan Brewer (R) in May, prohibits public funds for family planning from going to abortion providers and establishes a system for distributing funds, with priority going to government-run facilities, followed by hospitals, rural health clinics and private physicians. The bill's sponsor, state Rep. Justin Olson (R), has said the legislation is meant to target Planned Parenthood.
In a lawsuit filed on Monday, Planned Parenthood Arizona attorneys said federal Medicaid laws require that beneficiaries have the option of receiving services "from the qualified, willing provider of their choice." They argue that the law illegally denies money from the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System to any organization providing abortions and that it would interfere with PPAZ's contracts with other groups that receive AHCCCS funding (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/17).
Details of Arizona's Request
On Thursday, Arizona Solicitor General David Cole told U.S. District Judge Neil Wake that the state needs more time to respond to the lawsuit. Responding before Aug. 2 -- when the law is slated to take effect -- would be difficult, Cole said.
Daniel Pasternak, an attorney representing PPAZ, said he had no qualms about giving the state more time, as long as his client is not impacted in the interim.
The attorneys agreed that the state would have until the end of August to file a response, after which PPAZ would have three weeks to respond. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 5, according to the Daily Star.
Cole said that the delay would have no financial impact on state taxpayers because the state would still be funding the same services, just not through PPAZ. Olson said he agreed with the decision, even though it meant PPAZ would continue to receive funding. "I certainly defer to the judgment of the governor's administration in defending this legislation," he said (Arizona Daily Star, 7/20).