The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday against an Arizona law [HB 2800, PDF] that disqualified health providers which perform abortions, such as Planned Parenthood [advocacy website], from receiving public funds. The law would have cut off funding to such health care providers for other medical needs such as contraceptives, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and cancer screenings. The three-judge panel concluded that the law limits patients' options when choosing a doctor, which violates the Medicaid statute [text] and reasoned that "the free-choice-of-provider provision unambiguously requires that states participating in the Medicaid program allow covered patients to choose among the family-planning medical practitioners they could use were they paying out of their own pockets." Supporters of the ruling see it as a victory for low-income women, while opponents argue that the ruling will continue to subsidize the abortion industry.
This is the latest development in the ongoing reproductive rights controversy [JURIST backgrounder] in the US. Last October the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit declined to reconsider its August decision to allow Texas to defund Planned Parenthood [JURIST reports]. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld an injunction [JURIST report] against an Indiana law that would block Medicaid funding for abortion providers earlier that same month. In August the Fifth Circuit upheld Louisiana's Act 490, which allows the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) to revoke an abortion clinic's license [JURIST report] immediately after a regulation violation, rather than allowing the abortion clinic time to comply with the regulation. That same month a Kansas judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the state's new abortion clinic regulations after state officials asked that they be upheld without a trial.