Judge Weighs Ariz. Law Blocking Family Planning Funding to Planned Parenthood

October 9, 2012 — A federal judge on Friday seemed skeptical of Arizona's defense of a state law that bars public family planning funding to organizations that also provide abortion care, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (Davenport, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/5).

U.S. District Judge Neil Wake held the hearing to consider Planned Parenthood Arizona's request for a preliminary injunction to block the measure until the underlying lawsuit is resolved (Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Star, 10/6).

The law (HB 2800) establishes a system for distributing family planning funding, 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 July, Wake ordered Arizona to defer enforcement of the measure, which was slated to take effect Aug. 2, to give the state more time to respond to the lawsuit (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/20).

Friday's Hearing

During Friday's hearing, Wake pressed state attorney Steven Aden for a "specific answer" to back up his argument that the state has the right to disqualify abortion providers from receiving Medicaid funding (Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Star, 10/6).

Wake noted that he must consider whether allowing the law to take effect would have a detrimental impact on women. "It appears that we do have foreseeable practical impact on indigent women patients of Planned Parenthood of having to go somewhere else and no economic harm to the state but a frustration to the state of having its money go there," he said.

Alice Clapman, a lawyer representing Planned Parenthood, argued that the law would force women to switch providers mid-pregnancy, adding, "These are harms that cannot be remedied after the fact."

Before ruling, Wake must decide whether the plaintiffs have legal standing to sue or whether only the federal government has the authority to do so (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/5).