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Arizona Governor Repeals Medication Abortion Restriction, Targets Providers

Nicole Knight

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.

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