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Abortion bills emerge at Arizona Senate filing deadline

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Two bills targeting Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers were among a flurry of filings as an Arizona Senate deadline for introducing legislation neared Monday evening.

One makes it illegal for an abortion provider to sell or otherwise transfer a human fetus or embryo for use in research, something Planned Parenthood Arizona said it does not do.

Republican Sen. Nancy Barto’s Senate Bill 1474 was prompted by undercover videos anti-abortion activists say shows Planned Parenthood medical staff in another state discussing the sale of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood calls the videos misleading and its Arizona affiliate said it doesn’t provide fetal tissue for use in research.

“I believe that they’ve claimed that they don’t traffic in aborted baby body parts, so assuming that’s true they should have no issue with this bill,” said Cathi Herrod, president of the anti-abortion group Center for Arizona policy, which is backing the legislation. “There are other abortion providers in Arizona than Planned Parenthood, so this is to ensure that no abortion clinic, no abortion provider in Arizona is trafficking in aborted baby body parts.”

Planned Parenthood Arizona spokeswoman Jodi Liggett said simply does not transfer any fetal tissue for use in research.

“We however, along with all the other Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country, do support research,” Liggett said. “It’s vital. I think the Legislature is likely to hear from the scientific community that this bill is overbroad and ill-advised because there has been life-saving research based on fetal tissue.”

A bill by Senate President Andy Biggs fell far short of his December promise to block state Medicaid funds from paying for non-abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood. He said he’d take the action despite a 2014 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that upheld rulings preventing Arizona from stopping non-abortion funding through the state’s Medicaid plan to the group.

Instead, Senate Bill 1485 bars state worker payroll donations to abortion providers and puts in law a move Gov. Doug Ducey’s administration took last September removing Planned Parenthood from a list of charities workers could choose to send donation.

“It’s not the home run that I was hoping for, let’s put it that way,” Biggs said. “But you’re dealing with a really complex issue. State funding is already very low for Planned Parenthood, the feds are involved, it’s just a pretty complex issue.”

The Republican-controlled Legislature has for years enacted laws trying to limit abortions. Biggs said that effort will continue, despite the relatively small efforts this year.

“We have fought long and hard,” Biggs said. “And we’ve seen a reduction in the number of abortions in Arizona, and I think that’s a good thing. But they’re not eradicated, so it’s still something to look at.”

Legislation introduced last week tries again to limit the use of abortion pills, three months after a similar 2012 law was declared unconstitutional. That legislation is also backed by the Center for Arizona Policy.

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