In February, Sen. Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix), introduced SB 1318 in the Senate. It is a harmful bill barring abortion services from coverage in Arizona’s health care exchange. SB 1318 is the latest in a long series of legislative attacks on reproductive rights in Arizona — the 28th abortion restriction to be introduced since 2009, according to Dr. Eric Reuss of the American Congress of Obstetrics & Gynecology (Arizona Section), who wrote an editorial for The Arizona Republic expressing his and other doctors’ opposition to the bill.
Ask your senator to vote NO on SB 1318!
A wealth of bad ideas was necessary to produce more than two dozen anti-abortion bills, and this newest bill is the product of some of the worst of those ideas so far. For starters, SB 1318 takes on a problem that is all myth and no reality. The idea behind the bill is to keep people who are opposed to abortion from having to fund it — and, in the process, save them money. But the Affordable Care Act included a payment system to ensure that taxpayer funding of abortion wouldn’t happen. When The Arizona Republic checked Sen. Barto’s claim that “Taxpayers are on the hook for elective abortions,” the paper found the statement unsupported. As the Republic summarized, “Federal law already prevents insurance companies from using tax credits and subsidies to cover elective abortions. And federal funds are not allowed to be used to fund abortions with three exceptions — rape, incest or when the life of the mother is threatened.”
If that weren’t enough, the bill also requires doctors who perform abortion to provide their hospital admitting privileges proof to ADHS for their files. What would seem on the surface like a concern for the safety of abortion patients doesn’t stand up to closer scrutiny. Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures known to modern medicine, and in the unlikely event of a life-threatening complication, calling an ambulance would be enough to ensure that a patient can be transferred to a hospital.
In Arizona, like other states where admitting-privilege requirements have been introduced to regulate abortion providers, the ambulance protocol is allowed for other health care providers, many of whom perform riskier procedures. While a requirement for admitting privileges is already in statute, presenting this information to ADHS for filing with an abortion clinic’s licensing makes personal information available to the public. It puts abortion-providing physicians at a higher risk of harassment and endangerment.
In early March, Rep. Kelly Townsend added yet another bad idea to the bill, a requirement that providers who perform medication abortions tell their patients that it’s possible to “reverse” a medication abortion — just in case their patients change their minds mid-procedure. Putting aside how insulting it is to imply that patients could be so fickle with their reproductive decisions, this requirement, like the admitting-privileges requirement, is another wolf in sheep’s clothing: one that purports to promote informed consent but really pushes misinformed consent. A medication abortion is a two-step process, the first involving a dose of mifepristone, and the second involving a dose of misoprostol. The idea is that if patients change their minds after the first step, they can undergo a reversal procedure involving progesterone — but the evidence to support that claim is lacking, and Rep. Randall Friese (D-Tucson), a physician, calls it “fringe medicine.” One of its biggest proponents is George Delgado, a physician who is opposed to abortion and runs a website called Abortion Pill Reversal. The only evidence he offers is his own claims of successful reversals — which haven’t been substantiated by other medical professionals or supported by mainstream medical associations, and which, even if real, leave the question of safety and effectiveness unanswered.
This misguided and bullying piece of legislation, not surprisingly, is the work of Cathi Herrod and the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP), an organization that has seen more than 100 of its measures signed into law since its founding in 1995. CAP has been behind such notorious bills as SB 1062, which would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ customers — had it not been so awful that former Gov. Jan Brewer, who had otherwise been CAP-friendly, vetoed it.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona encourages citizens to voice their opposition to this latest bill by contacting their senators and urging them to vote no when it returns to the senate for a final vote. This District Locator can help you find out what legislative district you’re in, and the Arizona Legislature’s website lists all state senators and representatives in alphabetical order. Once you know which legislative district you live in, you can use the list to identify your senator and obtain his or her contact information. Arizona has already seen too many attacks on reproductive rights since 2009, and this latest is one of the worst yet.