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Arizona's Anti Planned Parenthood Funding Law Blocked by Fed. Judge

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By Deanne Katz, Esq. on October 24, 2012 6:56 AM

Arizona's attempt to cut off public funds to Planned Parenthood ended abruptly on Friday when a judge stopped a new law from being enforced.

The law would have blocked Medicaid funding for family planning and other general health services from going to organizations that also provide abortions. It was signed earlier this year but hasn't yet gone into effect.

Judge Neil Wake's ruling was a temporary injunction meaning he didn't decide whether the law was illegal or unconstitutional. Instead he ordered that the law cannot go into effect until that is determined.

The judge's decision isn't a reflection of whether the case will succeed but it is the way challenged laws generally work in court.

When a new law is challenged as unconstitutional or in violation of federal law and the challenge has any merit, it's not unusual for a judge to issue an injunction. The injunction will maintain the status quo and block the new law from going into effect until the issue is decided.

Saying a challenge has 'any merit' doesn't indicate it's likelihood of success. It just means the challenge is based on real law and doesn't appear to be frivolous.

In this case the legal challenge was brought by Planned Parenthood shortly after the law was passed. Part of their argument is that the state cannot dictate what doctors we choose.

That argument may succeed which the judge acknowledged in his ruling, according to Reuters. Federal law prohibits states from excluding Medicaid providers unless the provider is not qualified. Disagreement over what services the doctor provides is not sufficient to terminate funding so long as the doctor is licensed.

The state can regulate what funding is used for when it comes to abortion and Arizona is clear that it doesn't provide funds for abortion, reports Reuters. Supporters of the new law are concerned that funds given to Planned Parenthood will indirectly support abortion.

But Planned Parenthood officials refute that, saying abortion is only a small part of their service. The organization spends more time on cancer screenings, basic healthcare, and family planning.

Friday's ruling is only the beginning of the case which will take place in federal court in the coming months. Until then, the law will remain in suspension.

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