People For the American Way

Courts’ Vital Role in Protecting Women’s Health and Everyone’s Rights

This morning, a federal judge in Alabama blocked that state’s efforts to cut off Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood.  Federal law protects Medicaid recipients’ right to choose their own qualified healthcare providers.  As the Montgomery Advertiser reports:

The governor’s office has cited an ‘at-will’ provision for the cancelation of the contract.  [Judge Myron] Thompson disagreed, writing that it “falls well outside the range of grounds germane to the purposes of the Medicaid Act.”

“To conclude otherwise would not only strip the Medicaid Act’s free-choice-of-provider provision of all meaning, but also would contravene clear congressional intent to give Medicaid beneficiaries the right to receive covered services from any qualified and willing provider,” Thompson wrote.

Unfortunately, Alabama is not alone among states where GOP officials have sought to prevent women from accessing healthcare from Planned Parenthood, federal law notwithstanding.  But fortunately, Alabama is not alone among states where federal judges have protected women and the rule of law.  We have seen similar rulings in states like Arkansas, Utah, and Louisiana.

So much of the far right’s agenda flies in the face of the law, often including the U.S. Constitution.  Our system of fair and independent federal courts exists to protect everyone’s legal rights, regardless of political pressure or ideology.  That is why it is so important to make sure that our courts are adequately staffed by highly qualified judges who will live up to the trust we place in them.  Unfortunately, Senate Republicans have spent the last 6½ years making it as hard as possible for President Obama to do that, in the hopes of keeping as many seats as possible vacant so a Republican president can fill them with right-wing ideologues.

We don’t know who the next president will be.  But we do know that it is critically important for President Obama to nominate qualified jurists to the federal bench to fill the growing number of circuit and district court vacancies, and for the Senate to give them fair and timely consideration.