PHOENIX (CN) - A federal judge has temporarily blocked Arizona from enforcing a law that bans abortion providers from participating in the state's Medicaid program.
U.S. District Judge Neil Wake ruled Friday that "a state's determination of whether a provider is qualified must relate to its ability to deliver Medicaid services," not whether the provider performs "legally protected abortions."
Planned Parenthood filed suit against Arizona in July after the passage of House Bill 2800, a law that states Arizona "may not enter into a contract with or make a grant to any person that performs nonfederally qualified abortions or maintains or operates a facility where nonfederally qualified abortions are performed for the provision of family planning services." Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill into law on May 4, but it was not enacted.
According to the lawsuit, Arizona's Medicaid program - Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCS) - issued instructions "requiring all AHCCCS medical providers to attest that they do not provide abortions outside the limited circumstances indicated." If providers failed to attest, then they would no longer be eligible "to provide and receive reimbursement for medical services to patients enrolled in Medicaid."
Planned Parenthood says the law "disqualifies otherwise qualified providers of medical care from Medicaid solely because of the range of services they provide, which violates a Medicaid patient's right to receive care from the provider of his or her choice."
Arizona claims that "the Medicaid Act gives Arizona the authority to determine provider qualifications."
But Wake said Arizona's "conflation of a state's power to exclude an individual provider with the state's authority to set reasonable qualifications for all providers permeates defendants' argument."
"All of the provisions on which defendants rely for their contention that states have authority to define a 'qualified' provider however they see fit set forth a state's authority to 'exclude' providers. None discusses a provider's qualifications," Wake wrote.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said Wake's ruling bucks "the grassroots momentum to defund them of taxpayer dollars."
"Despite misinformation from the highest levels - including President Obama's recent repetition of the falsehood that Planned Parenthood provides mammograms - more and more Americans are coming to the conclusion that this abortion-centered business does not need or deserve taxpayer dollars," Dannenfelser said in a statement.
The judge also noted that Planned Parenthood's provision of "legally protected abortions does not affect their ability to perform family planning services for Medicaid patients."
"The language of the Medicaid Act, basic canons of statutory construction, and the legislative history of the provisions involved therefore compel the conclusion that Arizona lacks the authority to disqualify providers from the Medicaid program based solely on their provision of lawful abortion services," the decision states.
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