Arizona taxpayers will continue to fund care for the poor provided by Planned Parenthood, at least for the time being.
David Cole, the state's solicitor general, told U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake on Thursday that the state wants more time to respond to the lawsuit by Planned Parenthood challenging HB 2800. More to the point, Cole said having to respond before Aug. 2, the day the law is set to take effect, would create difficulties.
Attorney Daniel Pasternak who is representing Planned Parenthood said he has no problem with giving the state more time -- as long as his client was not harmed in the interim.
So the attorneys worked out a schedule where Arizona gets until the end of August to file its response, with Planned Parenthood then given three more weeks to respond. Wake will then hear arguments on Oct. 5.
Cole said the agreed-to delay has no financial implications for taxpayers, as the state would otherwise be paying someone other than Planned Parenthood for the same services.
The law prohibits the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state's Medicaid program, from providing any funds for services to any organization which also performs abortions.
Technically, AHCCCS does not fund Planned Parenthood for things like breast exams, pap smears and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. Instead, the state pays money to health care organizations which then contract with direct providers like Planned Parenthood.
But rules adopted by AHCCCS earlier this month bar even this indirect funding.
The measure was pushed by Rep. Justin Olson, R-Mesa.
Olson acknowledged state and federal laws already preclude the use of tax dollars for abortions in most cases. But he argued that giving state money to Planned Parenthood for the other services it provides effectively subsidizes the organization's abortion services.
The lawsuit argues that the restriction runs afoul of federal Medicaid regulations. That is significant because the federal government pays about two-thirds of the cost of the AHCCCS program and Arizona has to live within federal rules to get that funding.
Olson said he agrees with the decision by the state to defer enforcement of the law, even if it does mean continued funding for Planned Parenthood.
"I certainly defer to the judgment of the governor's administration in defending this legislation,'' he said.