Arizona Republicans Advance Anti-Choice Onslaught

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Arizona Republicans Advance Anti-Choice Onslaught

Nicole Knight

Two of the bills, SB 1474 and SB 1324, are virtual repeats of measures passed last year, which attempted to outlaw human fetal tissue research and restrict pill-induced abortion care.

Arizona Republican state senators pushed through a trio of anti-choice measures Wednesday to limit medication abortion, outlaw fetal tissue research, and bar state employees from donating to Planned Parenthood.

The bills advanced out of the Senate Government and Senate Health and Human Services committees on a party-line vote. Republicans hold the majority in both committees as well as in the house and senate.

Two of the bills, SB 1474 and SB 1324, are virtual repeats of measures passed last year, which attempted to outlaw human fetal tissue research and restrict pill-induced abortion care. The federal U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked both, calling the language in the fetal tissue ban “vague” and the abortion restrictions, which were included in a larger omnibus bill, unconstitutional.

This time around, GOP lawmakers contend they’ve tweaked the anti-choice bills to survive a court challenge. The state’s Republican governor, on another front, is pushing to remove the state from the Ninth Circuit, which is stacked with appointees from the Obama, Clinton, and Carter administrations, and has so far frowned on Arizona state legislators’ attacks on abortion access.

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SB 1324 would force providers to follow 16-year-old Food and Drug Administration (FDA) protocols for medication abortion care, rather than updated evidence-based practices. The bill would effectively shorten the window of time for a patient seeking a medication abortion from today’s medically accepted nine weeks’ gestation to seven weeks.

Sen. Kimberly Yee (R-Phoenix), a member of the Health and Human Services Committee, framed the rebooted bill around patient safety—despite a wealth of medical evidence supporting off-label medication abortion regimens.

Abortion providers, she said, have acted “outside of the FDA protocol and that is a risk,” according to an Associated Press report.

A five-year study of 13,000 women published in 2015 in Contraception found that evidence-based alternatives to the FDA-approved regimen for medication abortion are safe and effective.

Planned Parenthood Arizona CEO Bryan Howard told the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday that forcing providers to follow outdated FDA standards puts barriers on the legal procedure and pushes pregnant people to surgical abortion. He said Ohio saw its rate of pill-induced terminations plummet after that state’s providers were forced by GOP lawmakers to abide by the 16-year-old FDA protocol.

The bill advanced in a 4-3 party line vote.

Republicans on the Health and Human Services Committee also voted 4 to 3 in favor of Sen. Nancy Barto’s (R-Phoenix) bill, SB 1474, to outlaw human fetal tissue research.

Barto recounted debunked claims that Planned Parenthood illegally sells fetal tissue, referencing the heavily edited and widely discredited attack videos published by an anti-choice front group called the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the leaders of which have been indicted on charges related to the videos. CMP officials have worked closely with GOP lawmakers across the country in an effort to defund Planned Parenthood.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader state Sen. Katie Hobbs (D-Phoenix) countered that multiple investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing and pointed out that CMP officials behind the smear videos are now facing felony charges.

“I’m shocked that these videos are still being used to promote this inflammatory issue,” Hobbs said. “This bill can serve to prohibit important research that is being done.”

Arizona is already covered by a federal law that prohibits profiting from fetal tissue donation, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Arizona Republicans’ targeting of the health-care provider didn’t stop there. Republicans in the Senate Government Committee voted 4 to 2 to prohibit state workers from using payroll deductions to donate to abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.

SB 1485 enshrines into law a policy enacted last year by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican with staunch anti-choice views. Ducey dropped Planned Parenthood from a list of donation-eligible organizations included in the government charitable campaign, although the health-care provider met the eligibility criteria.