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Arizona, Indiana Blocked From Defunding Planned Parenthood

via Tara Culp-Ressler, ThinkProgress

Planned Parenthood scored two legal victories this week, with rulings in both Arizona and Indiana preventing the healthcare provider from being defunded.

A federal judge has blocked Arizona from implementing HB 2800, a measure that would have revoked Medicaid funding for family planning services at any health organization that also provides abortions, effectively defunding the state’s Planned Parenthood affiliates. The ruling represents a victory for Planned Parenthood, who sued to prevent HB 2800 from going into effect after Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) signed the bill into law in May.

Judge Neil Wake rejected the argument that Arizona can cut off federal funding for family planning simply based on the state’s own determination that abortion providers aren’t qualified for Medicaid eligibility, pointing out that Medicaid recipients have the right to choose between the full range of qualified providers “without government interference.” Planned Parenthood officials told Reuters that they are pleased the judge’s decision will preserve health services for thousands of low-income women in Arizona:

Bryan Howard, the president of Planned Parenthood Arizona, called the ruling “a victory for poor women” in the state. With the ruling, their health care will not be interrupted while the case moves forward, he said.

“Today’s ruling affirms what we have said all along: no woman should ever have to fear being cut off from her doctor’s care because of shortsighted political games,” Howard said in a statement.

Under HB 2800, an estimated 3,000 Medicaid recipients in Arizona who currently receive contraception and other preventative care at their local Planned Parenthood clinic would no longer be eligible for services there. Planned Parenthood officials condemn these type of measures — which Republican-controlled legislatures in Texas and Oklahoma have also pushed through — as politicized attacks on the organization in the ongoing War on Women, especially since abortion services account for just 3 percent of the patient care provided by Planned Parenthood clinics nationwide.

This doesn’t represent the only politicized battle over Planned Parenthood in Arizona, however. Anti-abortion groups are also opposing a proposed sales tax in the state because they worry that some of the funds will go to Planned Parenthood.

The family planning organization had a second legal victory this week in Indiana, when a federal appeals court has ruled that the state may not deny federal Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood affiliates in the state.

Indiana has the unfortunate distinction of being the first state that passed a law to exclude Planned Parenthood from the pool of its Medicaid-eligible providers, a tactic that anti-choice lawmakers often use to target the women’s health organization for performing abortions, despite the fact that abortion services represent just three percent of the care Planned Parenthood provides. Even though an estimated 9,300 low-income women in Indiana rely on Planned Parenthood for their health care — including cancer screenings, STD testing, and birth control — Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) signed a law in May 2011 to cut off the Medicaid funding that finances the organization’s general health screenings.

The decision from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is not the first ruling to strike down Indiana’s attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. The 2011 law was also blocked in an administrative ruling from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services over the summer. Under federal law, Medicaid beneficiaries have the right to choose between the full range of qualified providers for their health care, and states are not permitted to restrict women’s freedom to choose their health care provider on arbitrary grounds.

Low-income women in Texas are not so lucky, however. The Texas Health and Human Services department adopted regulations last week that will end federal funding to their Women’s Health Program, as Republican officials there continue to insist that the Medicaid program should be able to discriminate against Planned Parenthood clinics. Cutting off Planned Parenthood’s funding streams in Texas is already forcing health clinics to close their doors, including those that aren’t even affiliated with the national organization.

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