Bush-Appointed Federal Judge Halts Arizona’s Defunding of Planned Parenthood

A federal judge appointed by then President George W. Bush blocked an Arizona law Friday that prohibited taxpayer funds from being used for family planning groups such as Planned Parenthood.

U.S. District Judge Neil Wake, appointed in 2004 under the recommendation of Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl, issued a temporary injunction against the state law, which had been signed by Governor Jan Brewer in May. A temporary injunction is only issued in cases where the plaintiff, in this instance, Planned Parenthood, is likely to win the lawsuit.

While Arizona already bars federal funds from being used for abortions, the new law served as a supplemental measure to ensure that no funds would indirectly go to abortion providers. It prohibited Medicaid funds, which cover low-income families, from going to organizations that offer family planning services. There are thirteen Planned Parenthood locations in the state.

“This is a common-sense law that tightens existing state regulations and closes loopholes in order to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to fund abortions, whether directly or indirectly,” Governor Brewer said in a statement following the official signing. “By signing this measure into law, I stand with the majority of Americans who oppose the use of taxpayer funds for abortion.”

Arizona Solicitor General David Cole, the legal representation for the state, has been asserting that the government has a right to set its own “meaningful provider qualifications” regarding what types of organizations it chooses to fund.

However, in his ruling, Judge Wake stated that Planned Parenthood shouldn’t be denied funding simply because it performs abortions, and said that the other services the organization offers should qualify Planned Parenthood to receive Medicaid compensation.

“Simply put, a state’s determination of whether a provider is qualified to perform Medicaid services must at least be related to Medicaid services,” he wrote in his order yesterday. “The fact that [Planned Parenthood] performs legally protected abortions does not affect their ability to perform family planning services for Medicaid patients.”

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He also opined that the law signed by Governor Brewer is unnecessary.

“[T]here is no excess funding that could be used to subsidize abortions,” he stated.

Planned Parenthood had argued that the state cannot dictate to women where they may receive health care services, and that by withholding funds from the organization, low-income women were being blocked access to cancer screenings and birth control.

However, as previously reported, aside from pap smears, many have been contending that Planned Parenthood does not offer breast cancer screenings, and is not legally allowed to do so under federal law.

Earlier this week, Barack Obama stated during his second presidential debate, “[T]here are millions of women all across the country who rely on Planned Parenthood for — not just contraceptive care — they rely on it for mammograms [and] for cervical cancer screenings.”

“If Planned Parenthood is operating mammogram machines without a license, it is violating federal law. The president’s own administration has confirmed that Planned Parenthood has no such licenses,” remarked Senior Counsel Casey Mattox with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). “He should correct the record and explain that Planned Parenthood does not offer mammograms so that he cannot be accused of making allegations which, if true, would mean Planned Parenthood is breaking the law.”

Mattox says he personally wrote to Obama’s Health and Human Services Department to request copies of all mammogram permits for Planned Parenthood facilities across the country, and was told that none exist.

“In response to your information request, we have performed a thorough and diligent investigation of our records,” the response letter stated. “Unfortunately, our search did not uncover any documents pertinent to your request.”

Additionally, others take issue with the organization’s proliferation of birth control, noting that the best kind of birth control is abstinence.

However, Judge Wake sided with Planned Parenthood in Friday’s ruling, agreeing that the new law is likely to be overturned.

Nonetheless, Arizona Solicitor General Cole said that Wake’s issuance of a temporary injunction “doesn’t necessarily tip the judge’s hand on the merits [of the lawsuit], because he hasn’t heard the evidence” at this time.

The case will now move forward as a hearing has been scheduled for December 6th.

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