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Arizona Ban on Medicaid for Elective Abortions Blocked

An Arizona law prohibiting Medicaid funding for providers of elective abortions was temporarily blocked by a federal judge until a lawsuit over the law’s legality has been resolved.

U.S. District Judge Neil Wake in Phoenix yesterday granted a request by Planned Parenthood Arizona for a preliminary injunction. Planned Parenthood is likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the Arizona law violates the freedom-of-choice provision of the federal law governing the Medicaid program, the judge said.

“It is unlikely that Congress would have included a broad guarantee of free choice among qualified providers, subject to enumerated and well-defined exceptions, and then created in the states authority to circumvent that guarantee for nearly any reason,” Wake said.

The Arizona law prohibits Medicaid funding for health-care providers who perform abortions other than where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or threatens the health or life of the mother, according to the judge’s order. While the law was scheduled to take effect Aug. 2, the state agreed to wait for the judge’s ruling before enforcing it.

Bryan Howard, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Arizona, called the decision a ``victory for poor women in this state.''

``The court’s ruling protects the right of Arizona women to continue to receive important medical care from the medical providers of their own choice, without interference by the state,'' Howard said in an e-mailed statement.

Matthew Benson, a spokesman for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request after regular business hours yesterday seeking comment on the ruling.

The case is Planned Parenthood Arizona v. Betlach, 12-1533, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona (Phoenix).

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