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Blocking Women’s Access to Health Care Won’t Be Tolerated by the Courts or the Voters

ARIZONA – The U.S. Supreme Court announced today it would not review a lower court decision that preserves the right of women in the Medicaid program to access preventive health care services at Planned Parenthood health centers in Arizona. Since 2011, eight federal courts — six federal district courts and two courts of appeals — have ruled that states may not disqualify Planned Parenthood from providing preventive health services. The Supreme Court has now twice declined to review these decisions.

"This ruling is a victory for Arizona women and their families,” said Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona.  “The men and women of this state have the right to see the health care provider they deem is best for them. Thousands of low-income women rely on Planned Parenthood for breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, and other basic health care.  Politics should never interfere with a woman’s access to vital services.”

A federal district court permanently enjoined the 2012 Arizona state law (HB 2800) that would have excluded physicians who provide safe and legal abortion from the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS). The court found that the law violated the federal Medicaid Act, which protects patients’ rights to make their own decisions about health care providers.  Last August, an appeals court unanimously agreed. Despite overwhelming court precedent, in states around the country, some politicians are still trying to eliminate funding for family planning or block Planned Parenthood’s participation in public health programs. Polling consistently shows the majority of Americans oppose these efforts. 

“Let this be a lesson to politicians across the country: These dangerous and unconstitutional laws won’t be tolerated by the courts or the voters. Over and over again, courts have clearly said that states can't block people from getting preventive health care at Planned Parenthood. All women, no matter where they live, should be able to get quality, affordable health care from the provider they know and trust,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.  “Today the Court did the right thing, but women’s health is still on the docket — not only at the Supreme Court, but in active cases all across the country. Voters in Arizona and across the country have had enough of these relentless attacks on women’s health. The key to lasting change is new leadership at the state level — to stop these dangerous and deeply unpopular bills from passing in the first place.”

In many of the areas of the state, Planned Parenthood is the primary Medicaid provider of the most effective forms of birth control and testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. Planned Parenthood Arizona’s public funding comes primarily from the federal government and goes entirely toward preventive health care. Just like hospitals and other health care providers, Planned Parenthood health centers in Arizona receive reimbursements from Medicaid only for specific eligible services.  In accordance with state and federal law, Medicaid funds can only pay for an abortion in cases of rape, incest, or where the state recognizes a medical need. Like all health care providers, Planned Parenthood health centers are routinely audited to ensure government funds are used effectively and appropriately. 


Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a law on May 4, 2012, that bars abortion providers from participating in the state’s Medicaid program.  In July 2012, Planned Parenthood Arizona filed a lawsuit to block enforcement of the law. A federal court enjoined the law, agreeing that the law violated the Medicaid Act, which guarantees enrollees the freedom to choose their health care provider. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision on August 22, 2013.  

The other Court of Appeals to consider this argument, the Seventh Circuit, blocked a similar effort by Indiana, and the Supreme Court recently declined to review that decision. Federal courts have blocked state efforts in Kansas, North Carolina, Indiana, Tennessee, and Arizona to deny funding for preventive health care services provided by Planned Parenthood.

Prior to this petition, this litigation already cost the state of Arizona approximately $279,000 in legal fees alone, which is what it would cost for Arizona to provide clinical breast exams or cervical cancer screenings to thousands of AHCCCS patients.  It would have cost the state even more to litigate the case in the Supreme Court had the Court taken the case.  


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