PHOENIX - Gov. Jan Brewer continued her anti-abortion efforts late Friday, signing controversial legislation to keep any of the federal family-planning funding Arizona gets from going to Planned Parenthood.
A legal challenge is likely.
HB 2800 establishes an order for dividing up public funds for family planning. Top priority goes to government-run health-care facilities, followed by hospitals, rural health clinics and private doctors.
It bars funding from going to anyone who performs abortions or operates a facility where abortions are performed, a provision Rep. Justin Olson, R-Mesa, sponsor of the legislation, acknowledged is aimed at Planned Parenthood.
Brewer's action comes even as a federal judge has barred Texas from using a similar regulation to defund Planned Parenthood there. Brewer's spokesman, Matthew Benson, said she is not concerned.
"The governor is confident of the constitutionality of this law and believes it will be upheld," he said.
Olson acknowledged the Texas court ruling, but he said that is a "unique situation" and the Arizona law is sufficiently different. Still, he anticipates a lawsuit.
"Those who are intent on taking the life of the most innocent among us will try to strike this down in the courts," Olson said. But he said if other states enact similar laws, that will show "strong support" for withholding taxpayer dollars from organizations that provide abortion.
Similar lawsuits already were filed in Kansas and Indiana.
A lawsuit could just be part of the problem. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced in March it was pulling its funding for family-planning services from Texas because of the bid to exclude Planned Parenthood.
Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood Arizona, blasted the move.
"This bill shows lawmakers and Governor Brewer are more interested in restricting health-care access than representing Arizonans," he said. Howard said polling shows 78 percent of Arizonans favor state-funded family-planning services for low-income women, including sex education and counseling services, women's health services and birth control.
Michelle Steinberg, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood Arizona, said she did not know how much money is involved.
She said her organization currently provides family-planning services to about 29,000 women. About 25,000 of those are through federal funds, with the balance being served through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state's Medicaid program.
Arizona law already forbids the use of public money for abortions. Olson said HB 2800 closes a loophole.
Olson said there is a way for Planned Parenthood to keep getting these family-planning dollars. "Planned Parenthood can create two separate entities," he said, one that does family planning and one that does abortions, so there is "a firewall between the taxpayers' dollars and the abortions."
This session, the governor already signed legislation giving Arizona the toughest abortion restrictions in the country, banning the procedure once a fetus has developed for 20 weeks. That is based on arguments that a fetus that far along is capable of experiencing pain.
Last year Brewer approved a requirement for women to have a face-to-face consultation with a doctor 24 hours before a pregnancy can be terminated. She also signed legislation limiting what kind of abortions can be performed by nurse practitioners.
The biggest fights of the just-finished legislative session were over issues of morality and religion.