Saturday, August 24, 2013

Court Strikes Down Arizona's Defunding Of Planned Parenthood

On July 30, a federal judge struck down an Indiana law that would have prevented Medicaid recipients from accessing health care at Planned Parenthood clinics. Continuing this positive trend, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a District Court ruling that Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's (left) administration cannot effectively defund Planned Parenthood, since it would block Medicaid recipients from their right to freely choose their health care provider:

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a U.S. District Court ruling that will prevent Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s administration from effectively defunding Planned Parenthood. In their opinion, the panel of judges held that the Arizona law (HB 2800) violates the Medicaid Act’s requirement that Medicaid recipients are free to choose their provider “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.” The law would have prevented Arizona patients from having access to preventative care — including cancer screenings, STI tests, and birth control — at a Planned Parenthood health center.

Arizona contended that the statutory term “qualified” was “too vague for the court to enforce.” The court disagreed, noting that in the Medicaid Act, “‘qualified’ is tethered to an objective benchmark: ‘qualified to perform the service or services required.’” The court stated the requirements for determining the qualifications are “no different from the sorts of qualification or expertise that courts routinely make in various contexts,” refuting Arizona’s claim that it can unilaterally decide who is and who is not qualified to provide family planning services. “Read as Arizona suggests,” the court argued, “the free-choice-of-provider requirement would be self-eviserating” because a state could label any exclusionary rule — like the availability of legally performed abortions on the premises — as a qualification.

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