WASHINGTON — The United States Supreme Court has declined to hear a case regarding whether officials in Arizona may strip Planned Parenthood of Medicaid funding, allowing a lower court ruling to stand.
As previously reported, U.S. District Judge Neil Wake, appointed in 2004 by George W. Bush under the recommendation of Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl, issued a temporary injunction against a new state law surrounding the matter in October 2012 while the matter moved forward in the courts.
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 Jan Brewer said in a statement following the official signing in May 2012. “By signing this measure into law, I stand with the majority of Americans who oppose the use of taxpayer funds for abortion.”
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. “The fact that [Planned Parenthood] performs legally protected abortions does not affect their ability to perform family planning services for Medicaid patients.”
Last August, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Wake’s ruling, stating that Arizona officials are bound by federal law to provide Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood.
“[The free-choice-of-provider provision appears in a list of mandatory requirements that apply to all state Medicaid plans,” the court outlined. “For all these reasons, the free-choice-of-provider provision unambiguously requires that states participating in the Medicaid program allow covered patients to choose among the family planning medical practitioners they could use were they paying out of their own pockets.”
The court also asserted that the state has not shown that Planned Parenthood is “unqualified” to provide other services outside of abortions and therefore receive Medicaid reimbursement.
In November, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, but on Monday, its nine justices declined to to take the case, allowing the Ninth Circuit decision to stand.
The Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which had been asked by Horne to assist with the appeal, expressed its disappointment with the court’s inaction.
“Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize the work of abortionists. Arizona should be free to enforce its public interest against the taxpayer funding of abortion and in favor of the best health care for women, which is what this law sought to do,” stated Senior Counsel Steven Aden. “We are disappointed that the Supreme Court did not decide to weigh in on that principle. Arizonans deserve the best policies and laws possible to protect both their money and their health.”