Judge Temporarily Blocks Ariz. Law Barring Funding to Planned Parenthood

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).