- Associated Press - Friday, December 11, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - Republican lawmakers in the Arizona Legislature on Friday promised to try again to block all funding for Planned Parenthood in the coming legislative session.

The announcement from Senate President Andy Biggs comes despite a 2014 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that upheld rulings preventing Arizona from stopping non-abortion funding through the state’s Medicaid plan to the group.

That court case came after the Legislature passed a bill cutting off all Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood. A federal judge ruled that the 2012 law violated federal Medicaid law by not allowing patients to freely choose a qualified medical provider for women’s health services. The ruling was upheld by an appeals court, and the Supreme Court refused to reconsider the case.

State and federal funds are already not allowed to be used for abortions in almost all cases.

Biggs said he believes there are legal ways to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion services.

“I think that there are ways to get at it and that’s what we are going to be trying to do,” Biggs said. “The second component of the measure we’re talking about is the prevention of their practices with regard to the abuse of the aborted babies - the bodies and body parts and trafficking in that.”

Planned Parenthood-Arizona says it doesn’t transfer fetal tissue, but Biggs said he doesn’t trust their word.

“I don’t know that I’m acquiescent in their self-proclaimed righteousness there,” Biggs said.

Planned Parenthood-Arizona President Bryan Howard said again Friday that his group has never participated in a fetal tissue program, and the state Department of Health Services knows that full well. He said Biggs and his fellow Republican lawmakers are going down the same road they went down three years ago trying to block Medicaid funds and they’ll lose again.

“They’re proposing legislation that has already been found to violate federal law in terms of any funding restricting Planned Parenthood’s participation in publicly funded women’s health services,” Howard said. “As long as the state of Arizona wants to participate in the Medicaid program, it has to allow Arizona women to decide for themselves where to get their reproductive health care. The question has been asked. It has been answered.”

The Department of Health Services confirmed Planned Parenthood-Arizona doesn’t transfer fetal tissue, spokeswoman Holly Ward said Friday. The agency reviewed its records and confirmed that after Gov. Doug Ducey ordered it to write emergency rules banning the practice in July.

Planned Parenthood has received added scrutiny since anti-abortion activists released undercover videos last summer they say shows Planned Parenthood personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs.

Planned Parenthood denies it profits from the practice, and says it only is reimbursed for the direct costs of its programs providing fetal tissue to researchers.

The Republican-controlled Legislature has a long history of passing anti-abortion measures, and Ducey is a strong backer of the efforts. Biggs contends Planned Parenthood uses funds from non-abortion services to support its abortion services.

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