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.
This marks the second time in less than a month that Planned Parenthood has defeated an attempt to limit access to its facilities. On July 30, the ACLU prevailed in its lawsuit on behalf Planned Parenthood of Indiana when Judge Tanya Walton Pratt decided that an Indiana law similar to the Arizona one violated the same free-choice-of-provider provision.
In a statement, Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said that “[t]his is not only a victory for Planned Parenthood’s patients in Arizona, it is a victory for the nearly three million people who turn to Planned Parenthood health centers each year across the country. Planned Parenthood is reimbursed by the government to provide health care services just like other health care providers. Politicians in all 50 states should take note: blocking Planned Parenthood from funding to provide preventive health care is both unlawful, and deeply unpopular.”
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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