Arizona’s Planned Parenthood is suing the state in an effort to block the enactment of a law that would strip state funding from its health centers. The Whole Woman’s Health Funding Priority Act (HB 2800), signed by Governor Jan Brewer in May, prevents any facility that provides abortion services from receiving state funding, even if that funding is used for other services such as cancer screenings. According to Governor Brewer, “By signing this measure into law I stand with the majority of Americans who oppose the use of taxpayer funds for abortion” (Reuters). The law is set to take effect on August 2nd.
Interestingly, the state of Arizona does not provide tax dollars for abortion services, so this legislation is not necessary. However, state tax money does currently fund other health care services provided to low income women through agencies like Planned Parenthood, including preventive care, STD treatment, and birth control. This law would ensure that Planned Parenthood does not receive state funds for any health care services. Bryan Howard, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Arizona, believes that the state will in essence be denying its residents access to essential health care services: “It is wrong for the state to tell Arizonans who they can and cannot see for their health care” (Courthouse News).
The controversial legislation bans Planned Parenthood from seeking reimbursement through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state Medicaid program, which could be a violation of federal Medicaid rules; these rules prevent states from limiting a Medicaid patient’s ability to choose a family planning provider based on the scope of the services that provider offers (Huffington Post). If this law goes into effect, it is estimated that 3,000 Medicaid patients in the state will be denied health care services through Planned Parenthood (Courthouse News).
Similar laws have been passed in six other states, and although those laws have also been challenged, the trend is clear. Women’s health care continues to be politicized, and low income women are the ones who suffer most as a result. If women are denied access to mammograms, pap tests, STD testing, and birth control, health care costs in the state of Arizona are going to soar as more women seek treatment for diseases that are not detected through screening. The state will also experience more unplanned pregnancies due to lack of access to safe and affordable family planning services. Apparently, Arizona legislators are willing to let taxpayers foot that bill. Even more disturbing is the fact that they are willing to jeopardize women’s health in order to meet their own political agenda.