Arizona Ban on Medicaid for Abortion Providers Voided

Arizona’s ban on Medicaid funds for health-care providers who perform abortions was properly struck down because it violates federal rules giving patients the right to choose their own doctor, a U.S. appeals court said.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco today upheld a lower-court ruling that voided the law this year on grounds that it excluded otherwise qualified physicians from participation in the state’s Medicaid program.

Arizona has defined qualified as excluding health providers who perform abortions, lawyers for the state told the panel at a hearing in June.

The Arizona law prohibits Medicaid funding for health-care providers who perform abortions except when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or threatens the health or life of the mother. The measure, which had been scheduled to take effect in August, was challenged by Planned Parenthood Arizona.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed with the decision,” Steven Aden, an attorney with legal group Alliance Defending Freedom who represents the state, said in an e-mail. “We respectfully believe the court failed to give proper regard to the state of Arizona’s right and duty to spend its Medicaid dollars in a way that respects the deeply held pro-life beliefs of the majority of Arizonians. We are evaluating appropriate next steps.”

The case is Planned Parenthood Arizona Inc. v. Betlach, 12-17558, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (San Francisco).

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