- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 5, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona Senate on Tuesday gave initial approval to a bill opponents say is designed to make it easier to cut off Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood Arizona and other abortion providers.

The legislation, House Bill 2599, passed on a voice vote and awaits a formal vote despite a strenuous appeal to reject the bill from Democratic leader Sen. Katie Hobbs. The House passed the bill last month with only Republicans in support.

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. They also could lose funding if they violate medical waste rules or submit a claim for abortion-related procedures.

Hobbs said the bill was a distraction that would lead to a renewed court battle because a similar 2012 bill was blocked by the federal courts. She noted that efforts to expand health insurance for poor children have stalled, the state has nearly 20,000 children in foster care and the Legislature was refusing to remove adoption preferences for married traditional couples.

“So instead we’re talking about this bill, that again is another attempt to try to defund Planned Parenthood because some people don’t like what they do,” Hobbs said. “The fact is that thousands of women in Arizona depend on Planned Parenthood for health care, including cancer screenings, family planning, and health care that’s important.”

Republican Rep. Justin Olson has 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 a February committee hearing. “This bill does not target anybody. If you’re not following the law, you’re not going to be a qualified provider.”

The Republican-controlled Legislature regularly passes legislation targeting abortion and abortion-providers, and Gov. Doug Ducey is a strong opponent of abortion. Just last week, he signed three pieces of ant-abortion legislation, including one requiring them to follow outdated federal guidelines for the most common abortion drug and prescribe it at much higher doses than needed.

Ducey has called for a quick revamping of the medication abortion law because federal guidelines on its use changed the day he signed the bill.

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