NATION

New Arizona law restricts abortions and abortion insurance

Under new Arizona law, abortion providers must tell patients that drug-induced abortions can be reversed

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a controversial bill Monday that requires abortion providers to tell women they can reverse the effects of a drug-induced abortion.

The new law also bars women from buying healthcare plans through the federal marketplace that include abortion coverage, although an exception allows insurance in cases of rape, incest and when a woman's life is endangered.

The Republican governor made good on a pledge to Arizona residents to defend the "right to life" in a continuation of former Gov. Jan Brewer's tough stance against abortion.

State Senate Bill 1318, by Republican Sen. Nancy Barto of Phoenix, is designed primarily to bar women from buying a policy through the federal insurance marketplace that covers abortions.

During the final reading of the bill in the Arizona Senate on Wednesday, Sen. Steve Smith, a Republican who voted in favor of the measure, said taxpayers should not be paying for abortions.

"And that’s what this bill does," he said. "It removes that gimmick, it removes that accounting creativity that is in Obamacare."

AZ Fact Check saw things differently. The website — a joint project of the Arizona Republic, Arizona State University’s journalism school and a local NBC affiliate — found last month that the federal government already forbids insurers from using public funds to pay for elective abortions.  

Critics also slammed the new law’s requirement to tell patients a drug-induced abortion can be reversed, saying there is no science to support it.

State Sen. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who voted against the legislation, said that provision “requires medical professionals to commit medical malpractice.”

“This is junk science. It is quack medicine,” she said Wednesday. “There is absolutely no evidence anywhere in any peer-reviewed journal that supports this as a valid medical procedure.” It also could lead to birth defects, she said.

The Senate and House passed the bill mainly along party lines after a House committee amended it to include the medication provision. Dr. Allan Sawyer, who opposes abortion, had testified that he recently reversed a drug-induced abortion at 10 weeks but acknowledged that the procedure is not widely known.

Sawyer said doctors can give a woman a drug known as progesterone to stop an abortion after she has taken the first of two medications needed to complete the procedure.

State Sen. Debbie Lesko, a Republican, pushed back against Hobbs’ criticism.

Sawyer "is board-certified and has delivered more than 10,000 babies worldwide,” she said Wednesday. “I certainly would not consider this person a quack doctor, if that's what [Hobbs] was referring to.”

Dr. Kathleen Morrell, an abortion doctor and advocate at Physicians for Reproductive Health, said the procedure is not based in evidence and has not been well-researched.

Advocates on both sides of the issue said the requirement to tell patients an abortion by medication can be reversed is the first time such a provision has passed in the U.S.

Ducey didn't comment on that requirement. He said in a statement that he signed the bill to prevent taxpayer subsidies from being used to fund abortions.

"The American people overwhelmingly oppose taxpayer funding of abortions, and it's no different in Arizona, where we have long-standing policy against subsidizing them with public dollars," Ducey said. "This legislation provides clarity to state law."

Under the Affordable Care Act, states are permitted to buy optional abortion coverage. Women now pay a small extra fee for the coverage, but abortion opponents say the fee isn't enough to pay the actual cost. Advocates for abortion rights dispute that.

About 75% of the more than 200,000 Arizona residents who bought insurance policies on the marketplace receive a subsidy, according to the latest federal statistics. There's no breakdown by age or sex, but even those women who don't take subsidies will not be able to get abortion coverage when the new law takes effect.

The Associated Press was used in compiling this report.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

7:56 p.m.: This post has been updated to add comments by Arizona lawmakers and analysis from AZ Fact Check.

The first version of this post was published at 6:45 p.m.

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