Judge overturns Arizona law barring Planned Parenthood funding

PHOENIX Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:00pm GMT

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PHOENIX (Reuters) - A federal judge has overturned an Arizona law that sought to block funding through the state for Planned Parenthood's health care clinics because the group also performs abortions.

District Court Judge Neil Wake ruled that the controversial measure signed into law last May by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer unlawfully robs individuals on Medicaid of the ability to choose health care services.

"The Arizona Act violates the freedom of choice provision of the Medicaid Act precisely because every Medicaid beneficiary has the right to select any qualified health care provider," Wake ruled in a decision released on Friday.

Wake had put the Arizona law on a temporary hold in October following a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood, blocking the state from cutting off Medicaid funding for family planning and health services by the organization and other groups performing abortions.

Medicaid, a joint program between states and the federal government, provides health care coverage for low-income individuals.

The effort to de-fund Planned Parenthood in Arizona was part of an orchestrated move nationwide by conservatives who oppose abortion.

Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortions in Arizona.

There was no immediate comment from the governor's office or the state attorney general. A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood had no immediate comment.

(Editing by Tim Gaynor and Dan Grebler)

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