State lawmakers launched a three-pronged attack on abortions and abortion providers Wednesday, voting to ban fetal research, limit medication abortions and cut off the access of Planned Parenthood to payroll deductions by state employees.
The most far-reaching measure would impose a comprehensive prohibition on the use of any human fetus or embryo in any research, experimentation, study or transplanting. The only exceptions would be for diagnostic purposes to preserve the life of mother or the fetus, or for a pathological study to determine the cause of death.
SB1474, approved on a 4-3 party-line vote by the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, also makes it a crime to knowingly “sell, transfer, distribute, give away, accept, use or attempt to use any human fetus or embryo or any part, organ or fluid of the human fetus or embryo resulting from an abortion.”
Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, said the legislation is in response to the undercover videos that emerged last year that purport to show the trafficking of aborted fetuses and body parts, videos she said “shocked the soul.” Those videos appeared to show Planned Parenthood employees discussing how fetuses were aborted in ways to preserve the organs and negotiating sales prices.
“That revealed a side to the abortion industry most Americans didn’t know about,” she said.
“This bill seeks to protect the dignity of aborted preborn children,” Barto said. She said her measure will prevent “the preborn from becoming little more than a harvested commodity.”
House Minority Leader Katie Hobbs said she, too, was shocked by the videos — but not in the same way as Barto.
“This is not happening,” the Phoenix Democrat said.
“The videos have been discredited by an independent forensic analysis that showed numerous inaccuracies and misleading claims, false claims,” Hobbs said. And she said investigations of Planned Parenthood in several states have cleared the organization of any wrongdoing.
None of this affects Planned Parenthood here, which says it does not do fetal donations. But Hobbs said the ban on research is far-reaching and inappropriate, especially if the woman agrees to donate the fetus for “important research.”
Separately, the committee voted to restrict the use of RU-486, technically known as mifepristone, for medication abortions.
In 2012 lawmakers said it could be used only in accordance with the labeling approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. And that allows the drug to be used only for the first seven weeks of pregnancy.
Planned Parenthood, which uses the drug up through nine weeks, filed suit. And last year a state judge voided the law saying the state could not make its law dependent on changeable FDA restrictions.
SB1324 is designed to get around that by saying the drug can be used only as the FDA allowed it at the end of last year.
But Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said that’s even worse: It would lock Arizona doctors into a seven-week limit even if the FDA changes its protocols.
Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, said the FDA protocol is the safest for women.
“Once again, abortion providers have demonstrated they are more concerned with their bottom line than with the health and safety of women,” she said.
But Ilana Addis, an obstetrician and gynecologist, said the FDA protocol is “outdated” and pointed out the agency specifically allows “off-label” use of the drug if they consider it safe.
Even if the measure becomes law, it faces other legal hurdles.
In 2014 a federal appeals court blocked enforcement of the law, saying it “substantially burdened” the legal right of women to terminate a pregnancy.
The judges said the state never provided evidence the restrictions were necessary to protect the health of women. In fact, Judge William Fletcher, writing for the court, said the evidence they have suggests just the opposite: Women were more likely to suffer complications if doctors had to follow the law.
There has not yet been a full trial on the issue. But Will Gaona of the American Civil Liberties Union said that injunction remains in place until that happens, even if legislators recraft the 2012 law.
The third measure, SB1485, is aimed at the State Employees Charitable Campaign, which allows payroll deductions for dozens of charities. It would exclude any organization that performs elective abortions.
Gov. Doug Ducey effectively imposed such a ban administratively after the emergence of the videos last year, ejecting Planned Parenthood from the campaign in which it had been a part for years. This would put it in law.
Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, said singling out Planned Parenthood is legally justified.
“Arizona has a longstanding public policy to promote in favor of life over abortion,” she said. “This bill simply follows that longstanding policy.”
Senate President Andy Biggs said the state should not be doing anything to help facilitate the work of those who provide abortions even though they are legal under federal law.
Planned Parenthood has not sued over the restriction imposed by Ducey, with a spokeswoman saying that the publicity over the move actually resulted in more in voluntary donations than what it was collecting from state workers.