Arizona has lost the latest round in its fight to defund Planned Parenthood. On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake overturned a law passed by the Arizona legislature last May, and signed by Governor Jan Brewer, that banned state payments to Planned Parenthood (PP) because their clinics provide abortions.
In his decision, the judge ruled that:
“The Arizona Act violates the freedom of choice provision of the Medicaid Act precisely because every Medicaid beneficiary has the right to select any qualified health care provider.”
The fact that PP provides abortions does not make it unqualified as a health care provider. Abortion, after all, is a legal medical procedure–and comprises only 3% of the services that the organization offers in the state. Bryan Howard, president of the group’s Arizona branch, issued a statement after the ruling, saying:
“Politics should never interfere with a woman’s breast exam or birth control. It is wrong for the state to tell Arizonans who can be their health care provider … Our health centers are open today and they will be open tomorrow.”
Judge Wake first put the Arizona law on hold last October after Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against the state. That same month, a federal court of appeals upheld an injunction against an almost identical law in Indiana. By then, federal courts had also blocked laws in Kansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
In the Indiana case, U.S. Circuit Judge Diane Sykes used similar reasoning to Judge Wake’s, writing in her decision that:
“The defunding law excludes Planned Parenthood from Medicaid for a reason unrelated to its fitness to provide medical services, violating its patients’ statutory right to obtain medical care from the qualified provider of their choice.”
Medicaid, of course, pays for services for the poor, and it is precisely the poor whom such laws target–presumably because they have less power than other women and can be more easily controlled. More than twelve states have tried the same tactic over the past several years. A nationwide campaign to defund Planned Parenthood has been driven by the Susan B. Anthony List whose sole mission is to end abortion. But the all-out effort has been countered by rights groups, such as the ACLU, who partner with PP to defend women’s choices.
Only Texas has so far successfully won its legal battle by overhauling their legislation to forego over $200 million dollars in federal funding and create a totally state-funded Women’s Health Program. Without accepting federal dollars, Texas has been able to exclude Planned Parenthood as a provider of services to low-income women. The action deprives 40,000 of these women of the healthcare resources they customarily use. Texas has both the money and the lack of true concern for women to follow through with the blueprint by the Susan B. Anthony List, regardless.
However, Arizona doesn’t have the money to follow the Texas example–though state officials do possess the true lack of concern (politics above people, after all, and there are all those hard-line conservatives to appease). According to the Arizona Republic, the state has already appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, though no date has been scheduled for a hearing. The expectation is that the appeal will eventually go all the way to the Supreme Court.