Arizona lawmakers target Planned Parenthood funding

Arizona lawmakers target Planned Parenthood funding

Abortion providers in Arizona would be barred from receiving federal government funding through the state for family planning services under a bill that received preliminary approval from the state House on Friday.

State law already prohibits using tax dollars to fund abortions, but Rep. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, said the bill is needed to cut off what she called “backdoor funding” for organizations that provide abortions that are morally objectionable to many taxpayers.

The bill is the latest move by anti-abortion majority Republican legislators and social conservatives to target Planned Parenthood. It echoes similar efforts in other states.

Planned Parenthood Arizona, the state’s largest abortion provider, said the loss of federal funding would decrease availability of birth control, cancer screenings and other non-abortion services for thousands of low-income women. Those include 4,000 people annually whose care is reimbursed through the state’s Medicaid program, said Cynde Cerf, a Planned Parenthood Arizona spokeswoman.

It would be difficult for many patients, particularly those in rural areas, to find alternative providers, and the result could be more unplanned pregnancies and cases of sexually transmitted diseases, Cerf said.

Monica Coury, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, said the state Medicaid program hadn’t analyzed the potential impact of the bill on services provided through health plans that contract with the state program.

Cerf said she could not immediately provide dollar figures on the potential impact to Planned Parenthood Arizona’s funding, and a lawyer for an anti-abortion group that supports the bill also said numbers are hard to come by because the money is not appropriated by the Legislature.

If Planned Parenthood Arizona is cut off from non-abortion funding, the money would be redirected to other providers, such as hospitals and clinics, said Deborah Sheasby, a Center for Arizona Policy attorney.

“The state doesn’t lose any money through doing this, so it will be out there to help women,” she said.

Starting with Indiana, several other states have already approved similar bans, though all or most have been at least temporarily blocked by court rulings or met with resistance from federal officials, Sheasby said.

“It’s not something that has not been without its challenges,” Sheasby acknowledged.

House passage of the bill on a formal vote would send the bill to the Senate.