Federal judge holds hearing on Arizona abortion funding law

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] held a hearing on Friday at the request of Planned Parenthood Arizona (PPA) [advocacy website] to determine whether, under an Arizona law [text, PDF] prohibiting state funding to facilities that perform abortions, such facilities will still be paid for low-income residents' gynecological exams and other services not related to abortion. During the hearing judge Neil Wake questioned state attorneys [AP report] regarding possible harm that could result from letting the law take effect before a trial, and indicated that he saw potential for "great harm" to women's health. The state argued that the law should take effect because it reflects the "will of the taxpayers" and legislators, while opponents of the law argued that it would cause negative effects to women who would be forced to abruptly switch doctors. Other issues to be decided after the hearing are whether PPA and other affected facilities have standing to challenge the law's constitutionality or if the challenge would have to come from the federal government, and whether or not the law should be allowed to take effect pending a trial challenging its constitutionality. Wake did not yet make a ruling on any of the issues so far presented.

Arizona is currently facing multiple lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of recently passed abortion restrictions. Last month a federal court issued an emergency injunction [JURIST report] against an Arizona law that prohibits abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy except for in medical emergencies, which was challenged [JURIST report] by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy websites] in July. PPA also filed its suit [JURIST report] challenging the funding law in July, claiming the law violates federal laws regarding Medicaid patients' rights by restricting their rights to choose physicians. The law restricting funding to abortion clinics was signed by Governor Jan Brewer in May [Reuters report], while the law banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy was signed in April [JURIST report].

 

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