National Partnership for Women & Families

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Ariz. postpones enforcement of antiabortion-rights law pending implementation rules

Attorneys representing Arizona have temporarily agreed not to enforce a new state law (HB 2599) targeting funding for abortion providers, the Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Star reports (Fischer, Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Star, 10/28).

Law details

The law, sponsored by state Rep. Justin Olson (R), disqualifies any provider that violates one of several laws from participating in the state's Medicaid program. The measure specifically notes that it will disqualify any provider that does not "segregate taxpayer dollars from abortions." The law's language could necessitate separating out public funding allocated for "everything from doctors to lighting."

State and federal law already bar the use of public funds for most abortion care.

Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood of Arizona (PPA), has said the organization does not use public funds or Medicaid family planning funding to cover abortion care when such coverage is prohibited under federal law. While the law does not specifically name Planned Parenthood, Howard said it "is indeed intended to prevent Planned Parenthood [from] continuing to provide preventative services to low-income women in the state."

Legal background

In July, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a federal lawsuit against the law on behalf of PPA and Desert Star Family Planning. In the lawsuit, the abortion providers contend that the law violates their right to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment by targeting Planned Parenthood and imposing unclear guidance. For example, the plaintiffs said the law does not specify what it means to "segregate taxpayer dollars from abortions, including the use of taxpayer dollars for any overhead expenses attributable to abortions."

The providers also contend that the law violates patients' right to select a Medicaid provider of their choice. In addition, according to the plaintiffs, the law permits the director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) to temporarily or permanently end clinics' Medicaid participation with only 24 hours' notice. The lawsuit stated, "Unless enjoined, this impermissible requirement threatens to exclude the provider plaintiffs from the Medicaid program, thereby restricting their ability to provide -- and their patients' ... ability to access -- vital women's health services" (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/15).

Latest developments

In a stipulation filed with the court, Arizona Assistant Attorney General Rusty Crandell said officials will not enforce the law because it is not ready for implementation. According to Crandell, state officials may require up to two years before rules to enforce the law are crafted and adopted.

In response, ACLU agreed to drop its lawsuit challenging the law until the state moves to enforce it. In addition, according to the Capitol Media Services/Daily Star, abortion-rights supporters may also try to amend the law when the rules are submitted for public comment.

Jodi Liggett, vice president of public affairs at PPA, called the announcement a temporary victory. "It's a battle won," she said, adding, "We kicked the can down the road ... So it's not all bad" (Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Star, 10/28).