Arizona has been mired in a number of lawsuits regarding attempts to restrict reproductive health access, from a failed ban on tax credits for any non-profit that refers for abortions, regardless of the group’s mission, to a still pending pre-viability abortion ban. One lawsuit Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vowed not to get tangled back up in was an effort to defund Planned Parenthood. Sadly, that pledge is going by the wayside as anti-choice extremists use defunding as a bargaining chip for agreeing to expand the state’s Medicaid program.
Brewer warned anti-choice groups last month that she would not allow a ban on family planning funding specifically aimed at the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics to be a part of Medicaid expansion, saying, “We went down that route last year. We lost.” But the pressure from the most adamant opponents of reproductive health and rights, including the Center for Arizona Policy, previously a staunch ally of the administration, seems to have worn down her resolve.
Capitol Media Services reports that Brewer has announced she will consider blocking Planned Parenthood from receiving family planning funding as part of the expansion plan if that’s what it takes to get enough votes to pass it. The change in plan comes as the Center for Arizona Policy announces that it believes it has a way to prohibit the reproductive health group from receiving funds without falling into the same unconstitutional ruling that stopped the measure before. The new plan would “spell out that Medicaid funds cannot be used to directly or indirectly subsidize abortion services. And that includes paying administrative expenses including rent, employee salaries and utilities,” Capitol Media Services’ Howard Fischer reports.
It’s not entirely clear how this new language would result in anything but another lawsuit and another ruling against the state. When U.S. District Judge Neil Wake ruled against Arizona in February regarding the previous ban, Wake said, “A state may not restrict a beneficiary’s right to select any qualified provider for reasons wholly unrelated to the provider’s ability to deliver Medicaid services.” Regardless of why the state blocks the provider, a law declaring that funds can’t indirectly subsidize an abortion provider would still be a restriction on citizens’ right to choose their own qualified provider. If the new restrictions are added to guarantee passage of Medicaid expansion, you can be sure that this will end up back in the courts to test that precedent.