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Ariz. gov. signs bills repealing medication abortion regulations, targeting Medicaid funding for abortion providers

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) on Tuesday signed legislation (SB 1112) to repeal two laws regulating medication abortion, while also signing a measure (HB 2599) that targets Medicaid funding for abortion providers, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

Repealed laws

According to the AP/Bee, state attorneys said the medication abortion restrictions would not survive a court challenge (Christie, AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/17). The legislation repealing the medication abortion restrictions was proposed as an amendment to SB 1112, an underlying bill that addresses pharmacist regulations. The amendment includes multiple provisions.

One provision repeals a law (SB 1324), signed by Ducey in March, that would have required abortion providers in the state to follow the medication abortion regimen that was posted as FDA guidelines as of Dec. 31, 2015. The new law openly disregarded FDA's updated medication abortion drug label, which aligns with the scientifically proven, evidence-based standard of care that most providers already had been using in prescribing the drug.

Another provision repeals part of a 2015 law (SB 1318) that would have required doctors to provide medically unproven information to women about medication abortion. The law took effect on July 3, 2015, but the medication abortion provision has been on hold pending a legal challenge. Among other provisions, the law's medication abortion restrictions would have required physicians to tell a woman the medically unproven claim that administering high doses of progesterone could reverse a medication abortion (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/22).

Bill targeting Medicaid funding

Ducey on Tuesday also signed a bill targeting Medicaid funding for abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood (Fischer, Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Star, 5/18).

The law, sponsored by state Rep. Justin Olson (R), disqualifies any provider that violates one of several laws from participating in the state's Medicaid program, including failing to"segregate taxpayer dollars from abortions." The law's language could necessitate separating out public funding allocated for "everything from doctors to lighting" (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/7). According to the AP/Bee, state and federal law already bars the use of public funds for most abortion care.

The law's passage comes after the Obama administration warned officials in every state that efforts to cut abortion providers out of Medicaid could violate federal law (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/17).

Planned Parenthood's response

Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood Arizona (PPA), called the Medicaid bill "another attempt to prevent low-income women from coming to Planned Parenthood for services" (Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Star, 5/18).

Jodi Liggett, vice president of public affairs at PPA, said, "The federal government has made clear that this kind of targeting of abortion providers is unacceptable because it burdens patients' free choice of providers." She drew comparisons between HB 2599 and an overturned 2012 state law that blocked Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, noting that while the latest law is more narrowly tailored, its primary objective is to "defund Planned Parenthood."

Liggett said the organization would consider its options after assessing how the state decides to implement the law. She noted that while PPA "would like to dedicate all our resources to serving patients," the organization is frequently forced to file lawsuits against the state because "policymakers in Arizona have made this quite a pastime -- passing unconstitutional legislation that then we have to go after" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/17).