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Pro-life bill would turn women away from abortion clinics even if government doesn’t pay

A proposed law that is scheduled for a legislative committee on Monday would forbid women from getting abortions at clinics where they get their Medicaid-funded family planning services even if they pay to end their pregnancies themselves.

The proposal is part of SB1069, which also includes a provision allowing the state to perform surprise inspections of abortion clinics.  The pro-life lobby Center for Arizona Policy had announced the plan for inspections at a pro-life rally on Thursday, but made no mention of the Medicaid provision.

Cathi Herrod, president of Center for Arizona Policy, said that under SB1069, a clinic that provides family-planning services such as birth control and wellness exams to a woman receiving Medicaid assistance would have to refer her to another clinic for an abortion. Medicaid doesn’t pay for elective abortions, but the woman would have to be referred even if she paid with her own cash.

“Our primary intent is Medicaid taxpayer dollars should not be subsidizing abortion services,” Herrod said.

She said Medicaid cannot be an avenue to attract patients for abortion.

Bryan Howard, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said Planned Parenthood doesn’t use its family-planning services to attract women for abortion, but does the opposite by introducing them to family planning after they have terminated an unwanted pregnancy.

Howard said if the bill is signed into law, responsible healthcare providers would have to make a choice of providing abortions or serving Medicaid patients.

“If they want to be accessible to all women to provide abortion care they have to leave the Medicaid program. If they want to be in the Medicaid program they have to pick and choose which patients they serve with abortion care even if she’s paying for that care herself,” Howard said.

The proposal comes in the final days of the legislative session and won’t be scrutinized to the extent had it been introduced early on.  It also comes as a lawsuit challenging a 2012 bill aimed at cutting Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood goes before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on June 12.

The state is trying to overturn a lower court ruling in which U.S. District Court Judge Neil V. Wake found the law, passed as HB2800, violates the Medicaid patients’ rights under federal law to receive care from the provider of their choice.

“HB2800 was basically saying that the state could determine that an abortion provider would also not be a Medicaid provider,” Herrod said. “This is a different approach where we’re saying abortion providers may not benefit from providing Medicaid family planning services.”

Howard said he expects SB1609 to meet a similar fate.   The state ultimately paid $215,000 to reimburse Planned Parenthood’s legal expenses.

“If this is signed into law and this goes to court, the state is in essence issuing a blank check to Planned Parenthood,” Howard said.

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