- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona House on Wednesday passed a bill that would make it easier to cut off abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood from public funding through the state’s Medicaid program.

The bill allows the state to cut off funding and revoke licenses for providers that fail to segregate taxpayer money from funds used to provide abortions, including overhead. They also could lose funding if they violated medical-waste rules, submitted a claim for procedures associated with an abortion or failed to report the sexual assault of a child to police.

House Bill 2599 passed on a 35-24 party-line vote without discussion and with only Republicans in support. It now heads to the Senate.

Planned Parenthood Arizona officials said the bill by Rep. Justin Olson, R-Mesa, revives elements of a court-blocked 2012 law cutting off non-abortion funding to Planned Parenthood and will likely lead to a new court battle.

Democrats opposed to the bill did speak during a committee hearing last week, arguing that targeting Planned Parenthood will harm women who use the health care provider.

“If you exclude a provider like Planned Parenthood who does 97 percent of their business in cancer screenings and other checkups and things like that, it’s problematic for the women of Arizona,” said Rep. Stefanie Mach, D-Tucson.

Olson said he’s just trying to ensure that federal and state laws banning taxpayer money from paying for most abortions are followed.

“I think that it is appropriate that there is an enforcement mechanism to ensure that that law is not being violated, that it is being obeyed,” Olson said at the Feb. 24 hearing. “This bill does not target anybody. If you’re not following the law, you’re not going to be a qualified provider.”

Planned Parenthood Arizona spokeswoman Jodi Liggett said Wednesday that the group meticulously separates its billings so that no taxpayer money pays for non-covered abortions. She said the concern is that the proposal requiring abortion providers to allocate their overhead costs seems to be a setup.

“What we’re concerned about is it this really a gotcha game, where the state uses this provision as a pretext to try and chase down every penny,” Liggett said. “And if you absolutely cannot without a shadow of a doubt prove a negative, that will be an excuse to kick us out of the Medicaid program”

The 2012 law that was ruled illegal tried to bar Planned Parenthood from receiving any funds from the state’s Medicaid program. But U.S. District Judge Neil Wake ruled that the measure violated federal law allowing patients to choose any provider that is qualified to deliver Medicaid services.

The Republican-controlled legislature regularly passes anti-abortion bills, and several are being considered this year. Gov. Doug Ducey is an abortion opponent and likely to sign the legislation.

Liggett said that if the bill becomes law, Arizona can expect a court challenge. “We’ll see ‘em in court probably at some point in the future, and that’s really too bad for Arizona taxpayers,” she said.

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