Judge Blocks Ariz. Attempt To Defund Planned Parenthood
A federal court shot down an effort by Arizona to block Planned Parenthood women’s health clinics from receiving Medicaid dollars.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court ruling that Medicaid law giving recipients free choice as to where to spend their health care money means that the state has no right to keep it from going to Planned Parenthood.
Similar rulings have preserved funding for clinics in Indiana, North Carolina, Kansas and Tennessee.
Federal Medicaid funds cannot be used to pay for abortions under federal law. Instead, the money funds things like cancer screenings, birth control and STD testing, but conservative lawmakers have attempted to kick Planned Parenthood out of the system because abortions are performed at some of its clinics.
Planned Parenthood and the ACLU sued, noting that 13 clinics and 3,000 low-income patients would be affected. The law was temporarily enjoined last year before it could take effect.
“The panel then held that the Arizona statute contravenes the Medicaid Act’s requirement that states give Medicaid recipients a free choice of qualified provider,” the opinion reads. “The panel held that the Arizona law violates this requirement by precluding Medicaid patients from using medical providers concededly qualified to perform family planning services to patients in Arizona generally, solely on the basis that those providers separately perform privately funded, legal abortions.”
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The Arizona law was just one of hundreds that states have passed in the past three years attacking abortion providers. Attempts to defund Planned Parenthood go a step beyond because they are not even directly addressing abortion; rather they try to cut off basic healthcare to low-income women just because their clinic provides abortions in other circumstances.
“Over and over again, courts have said that states cannot block people from getting preventive health care at Planned Parenthood, and the vast majority of the American public agrees,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement. “All women, no matter where they live, should be able to get quality, affordable health care from the health care provider they know and trust.”
Aside from the Medicaid freedom of choice provision, the lawsuit claimed that the law violated a number of constitutional mandates, among them the Supremacy Clause, the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause and the Contracts Clause.
“The states’ attempts to restrict a woman’s freedom of choice on various grounds have been based on ideological sectarian concerns rather than the law,” ACLU Arizona Legal Director Dan Pochoda told the San Francisco Chronicle.
The attorney representing Arizona, Steven Aden, fired back, saying the court “failed to give proper regard to the state of Arizona’s right and duty to spend its Medicaid dollars in a way that respects the deeply held pro-life beliefs of the majority of Arizonans.”
The pro-life beliefs, apparently, do not extend to cancer screenings.