Judge blocks Arizona law that bars funding to Planned Parenthood
PHOENIX (Reuters) - A federal judge blocked Arizona on Friday from applying a new law that bars Planned Parenthood clinics from receiving money through the state to provide medical care because the women's health organization also performs abortions.
District Court Judge Neil Wake issued a temporary injunction after Planned Parenthood sued over the law, which would have cut off Medicaid funding for family planning and health services delivered by organizations offering abortions. Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides health care coverage for low-income people.
The law, signed by Governor Jan Brewer in May, is part of a national campaign against Planned Parenthood orchestrated by conservative Republican lawmakers who oppose abortion.
Planned Parenthood had argued in its lawsuit that it was wrong for the state to tell Arizonans who they can and cannot see for their health care, and the judge said the organization was likely to succeed on the merits of its case.
Arizona Solicitor General David Cole said the judge's ruling "did not come as a shock."
"It's not the result we would have hoped, but it's not a ruling on the merits," Cole told Reuters, noting that a hearing on the issues in the case would be held in early December.
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.
The organization says abortions account for only 3 percent of its services, which include cancer screening and birth control.
In the past two years, conservative Republicans in more than a dozen states have taken steps to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, and the organization has filed lawsuits in at least six of them, including Arizona.
Arizona does not provide tax dollars for abortion, but backers said the law was needed to make sure that no indirect money was funneled to organizations like Planned Parenthood that provide abortion and other health services.
But officials at Planned Parenthood Arizona, the state's largest abortion provider, said the law meant that thousands of women in the state would go without life-saving cancer screenings, birth control and basic health care.
(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Jackie Frank)