- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona lawmakers approved legislation that requires abortion providers to tell women they may be able to reverse a drug-induced abortion, and bars women from buying any health care plan through the federal marketplace that includes abortion coverage.

The provision on reversing a medication abortion is the first to pass a state legislature, advocates on both sides of the issue said. Arkansas lawmakers are also considering similar legislation.

Pro-life groups say they have cases where women who regretted taking the first of two abortion-inducing drugs have been able to stop the abortion and have healthy babies — if they sought help promptly.

Critics say there’s no science to back up the requirement.

The Senate passed the proposal Wednesday on an 18-11 vote. It now heads to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who has pledged to defend the right to life but hasn’t weighed in on this specific legislation.

The insurance legislation by Phoenix Republican Sen. Nancy Barto was designed primarily to bar women from buying any health-care plan through the federal marketplace that includes elective abortion coverage.

The Center for Arizona Policy, a lobbying group that opposes abortion, backed the proposal. They said women who receive federal subsidies to buy optional abortion coverage with their plans don’t cover the actual costs, and taxpayers end up picking up the tab.

“Our voters overwhelmingly and consistently have said they do not want their taxpayer money going to fund abortions,” State Rep. Kelly Townsend, a Republican from the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, said during House debate earlier this week.

About 75 percent of the more than 200,000 Arizona residents who bought insurance policies on the marketplace get a subsidy, according to the latest federal statistics. A gender breakdown isn’t available.

However, even those who don’t take subsidies will not be able to get that coverage if the bill becomes law.

A House committee amended the legislation last week to include the abortion-reversal provision after a pro-life doctor testified that he recently reversed a drug-induced abortion at 10 weeks, though he acknowledged the procedure is not widely known.

“This ability to reverse was not even known until recently,” said Dr. Allan Sawyer, chairman of the bioethics committee at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center.

Dr. Allan said doctors can give a woman a drug known as progesterone to stop an abortion if she has taken the first of two medications needed to complete the procedure.

Dr. Kathleen Morrell, an abortion doctor and advocate at Physicians for Reproductive Health, said the procedure is not evidence-based and has not been well-researched.

“It’s experimental. It’s untested, and if we don’t know it works then why are we doing it?” she said. “Show me the evidence, because we have piles of research behind what we’re doing. They don’t have a pile.”

The insurance legislation contains an exception allowing coverage in cases of rape and incest.

But that exception is problematic, said Rep. Victoria Steele, a Democrat from Tucson.

“That is a cruel joke, because imagine that someone, your daughter, is pregnant as the result of a rape,” Ms. Steele said. “They would need to talk to their insurance company to prove they qualify for this exemption? How humiliating, how traumatizing that is.”

The Arizona bill number is SB 1318.


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