Arizona Governor Signs HB 2416, Restricting Telemed Abortions

Robin Marty

The state just keeps adding more restrictions to how and when abortions can be performed.

Arizona is once again making it more difficult for women in the state to obtain abortions, this time creating new rules on how the procedure would be performed.  With a focus on initiating new rules defining abortion that will force women to undergo mandatory ultrasounds prior to the procedure and eliminate the possibility of using telemedine to dispense RU-486, many women in rural areas will effectively be cut off from access to an easily obtainable abortion.

Via Press Release:

“Under the disguise of making a law that makes women safe, HB 2416 will actually be more dangerous for rural, low-income women, delaying care and making access difficult,” said Bryan Howard, CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona.  “Claiming to be more knowledgeable than trained medical professionals and their licensing boards, the legislature has once again put themselves between patients and their doctors.”

In order for this legislation to pass, anti-abortion interest groups provided testimony during the legislative process that distorted medical data and the directives of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which monitors and has certified the safety of the pill used in medication abortion. 

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“Regardless of Arizonans’ views on abortion, all citizens should expect elected representatives to use accurate information as the basis for the laws that regulate access to safe medical care,” says Howard. “In HB 2416, both the anti-abortion legislators who voted for this legislation and the anti-abortion interest groups that provided them with talking points did all Arizonans a disservice by employing deceitful tactics to get this bill passed.”

Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill into law only a few days after signing a previous batch of anti-choice legislation that claimed to be necessary to stop gender and race based abortions in the state.

News Family Planning

Lawsuit Challenges Arizona’s Attempt to Defund Planned Parenthood

Nicole Knight Shine

The Republican-backed law specifically targets abortion providers, excluding any facility from Medicaid that fails "to segregate taxpayer dollars from abortions, including the use of taxpayer dollars for any overhead expenses attributable to abortions.”

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked a federal court to block an Arizona law defunding Planned Parenthood, arguing in a legal challenge filed Thursday that the Arizona measure is “illegal.”

The GOP-backed law, signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in May, specifically targets abortion providers, excluding any facility from Medicaid that fails “to segregate taxpayer dollars from abortions, including the use of taxpayer dollars for any overhead expenses attributable to abortions.”

Federal law already bars health-care providers from using Medicaid dollars for abortion care, except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.

In an 18-page complaint, the plaintiffs argue that the restriction is impermissible under Medicaid statutes, and they ask for an injunction on the law, which goes into effect August 6. Planned Parenthood said in an emailed statement that the law could slash funding for birth control, cancer screenings, and preventive care, affecting more than 2,500 Medicaid patients in the state.

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The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state Medicaid agency, did not respond to a request for comment.

Jennifer Lee, staff attorney at the ACLU, called the Arizona law “another attempt to intimidate doctors who provide abortion and to punish low-income women in particular,” in a statement announcing the lawsuit. Planned Parenthood operates 11 medical centers in the state, including three in underserved and impoverished communities with high rates of infant mortality, according to the court filing.

At least ten states, including Arizona, have attempted to strip Planned Parenthood of funding—the fallout from a string of deceptive smear videos masterminded by David Daleiden, the head of the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress, who now faces a felony record-tampering charge.

“This case is about the people who rely on us for basic care every day,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in an announcement of the Arizona suit. “We’ll continue fighting in Arizona, and anywhere else there are efforts to block our patients from the care they need.”

The Arizona law represents the state’s second attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. In 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision finding a similar defunding measure, HB 2800, violated federal Medicaid law.

In April, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services sent a letter to all 50 states saying that cutting funding to qualified providers solely because they provide abortion care violates federal law.

Independent analysis suggests gutting Planned Parenthood funding exacts a toll on health care.

2015 report from the Congressional Budget Office indicated that health-care access would suffer under Planned Parenthood funding cuts, with the potential for $650 million in additional Medicaid spending over a decade and thousands of more births.

In Texas, births surged 27 percent among low-income women who were using injectable birth control but lost access to the service when the state cut Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

News Abortion

Arizona Governor Repeals Medication Abortion Restriction, Targets Providers

Nicole Knight Shine

Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed a measure aimed at stripping Medicaid funding from abortion providers, despite a policy letter from the federal Medicaid program warning Medicaid directors that they cannot cut funding to health-care providers just because they offer abortion care.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) on Tuesday delivered a mixed victory to reproductive health advocates, signing a pair of bills that roll back restrictions on medication abortion, but make it easier to cut off Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding.

SB 1112 repeals a law from the Republican-dominated state legislature passed this year, forcing Arizona doctors to follow obsolete Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards on medication abortion. That measure, which Ducey signed but which never went into effect, would have barred Arizona doctors from prescribing the two-pill regime after seven weeks of pregnancy, although FDA labeling updated in April allows administration of medication abortion up to ten weeks.

Ducey, a longtime champion of anti-choice measures, acknowledged the flaws in the bill, known as SB 1324, shortly after the FDA updated medication abortion labeling last month. But he added, “I will always stand with those advocating life,” as the Associated Press reported.

SB 1112 repeals a 2015 law requiring abortion providers to tell patients that medication abortion is reversible—a notion advanced on the basis of a single study of six patients, but rejected by mainstream medicine. Arizona’s GOP-backed law, blocked in federal court, never went into effect.

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“This measure remedies the most recent attacks on women’s access to safe, medically accurate, legal care,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement on the repeal of SB 1324.

Arizona isn’t alone in attempting to enshrine the notion of abortion reversal into law. South Dakota’s Republican governor in March signed legislation to require the state’s “informed consent” process to include unscientific information about abortion pill reversal.

Ducey on Tuesday also signed a measure aimed at stripping Medicaid funding from abortion providers, despite a policy letter sent last month from the federal Medicaid program warning Medicaid directors in all 50 states that they cannot cut funding to health-care providers just because they provide abortion care.

HB 2599 empowers the state to cut off Medicaid funding to providers that fail to segregate taxpayer funds from money used for abortion care. Providers could face removal from Medicaid for violations that include submitting a claim for abortion-related procedures or illegally disposing of medical waste.

Jodi Liggett, vice president of public affairs with Planned Parenthood Arizona, told Rewire in an email that the health-care provider would ask the state Medicaid agency to explain how it intends to implement the law.

Ten states have advanced or passed laws to strip Planned Parenthood of Medicaid funding. The health-care provider has sued to restore funding in Texas, among other states.

“We do anticipate that litigation may be necessary,” Liggett added.

Arizona’s 2016 session ended with a slew of abortion care restrictions. Ducey in recent months has signed Republican-backed legislation to outlaw fetal tissue research and bar state employees from donating to Planned Parenthood.