07/17/2012 04:38 pm ET Updated Jul 17, 2012

Planned Parenthood Sues Arizona To Block Defunding Law

Planned Parenthood Arizona filed a lawsuit on Monday against a newly signed law that would prevent Medicaid patients in the state from choosing Planned Parenthood as their health provider because some of its clinics offer abortions.

The Whole Woman’s Health Funding Priority Act (HB 2800), signed by Gov. Jan Brewer (R) May 5, bans Planned Parenthood from seeking reimbursements for its low-income patients through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state Medicaid program. Planned Parenthood's legal team is arguing that the bill violates federal Medicaid rules, which say that states cannot limit a Medicaid patient's ability to choose a family planning provider based on the scope of the other services that provider offers.

"It is wrong for the state to tell any Arizonan who they can and cannot see for their health care," Bryan Howard, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, told reporters in a conference call on Tuesday.

Anti-abortion activist group Susan B. Anthony List, which helped write and promote the legislation, said its purpose is to prevent taxpayer money from flowing to an organization that provides abortions.

“Arizona taxpayers have spoken through their elected representatives -- they do not want their tax dollars going to abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood, which performs more than 330,000 abortions a year,” said SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser.

Of the 15 Planned Parenthood clinics in Arizona, only five offer abortions, and a patient cannot use state Medicaid money to pay for an abortion unless her life is in danger. The only services at Planned Parenthood that the state subsidizes for low-income patients are family planning and preventative health services, such as birth control, STD testing and breast cancer screenings.

In 2011, Planned Parenthood served nearly 3,000 patients through AHCCCS and were reimbursed a total of $350,000. Under the new law, low-income patients would have to find an AHCCCS provider other than Planned Parenthood to use, which could be difficult for women who live in many of the state's more rural areas.

Howard said he was confident Planned Parenthood would win its lawsuit against the state because federal judges in Texas, Indiana, North Carolina, Kansas and Tennessee have already blocked similar defunding laws in the past year.

"We have been here for Arizonans for 78 years, and will continue to be here for women and families and their health care needs," he said.