PHOENIX - State lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to legislation that could endanger the obstetrics and gynecology training of doctors at the University of Arizona.
By a 21-7 vote, the Senate approved legislation that would deny state tax deductions for donations made to charitable organizations that not only perform abortions but even refer clients to places where they can terminate a pregnancy.
Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, one of the prime sponsors of the legislation, said it simply reinforces existing laws that bar the use of state funds for abortions.
But HB 2384 also would make it illegal to use not only state funds but even student tuition or fees to train students to perform the procedure. And those are the only sources of funds currently available.
More to the point, it would leave the medical school without training it needs.
"If enacted, this proposed legislation will certainly jeopardize the accreditation of our obstetrics-gynecology residency program," said Dr. Steven Goldschmid, dean of the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
But Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy that crafted the legislation, called that a "red herring."
She said Maricopa County supervisors voted years ago to preclude any public funds from being used for abortion training in any county hospital. But Herrod said graduate ob/gyn programs continued to be accredited there.
Herrod also said accreditation rules have an exception for any program where state laws preclude public funds for abortion training.
She acknowledged that the legislation does more than ban public funding of abortion training, even precluding students from using their own tuition and fees to get education they may want. But Herrod said the broad scope of the bill is necessary because all funds go into a single pot and there is no way to figure out which dollars are which.
Accreditation aside, the legislation, which already has been approved by the House, drew fire from Kevin Burns. He is chief executive of UA Healthcare, the organization that runs University Medical Center.
Burns said it's not a question of ideology. He said there are practical problems to the measure.
"I believe that … our doctors, nurses and other clinicians have to be trained in life-saving techniques and procedures," he said. "At times, this could be a life-saving technique or procedure."
Herrod said Burns is off base. She said doctors who are certified specialists in obstetrics and gynecology already get training for how to handle situations where a woman miscarries.
That includes a "dilation and curettage" procedure where doctors remove tissue from the inside of a uterus. Herrod said those same procedures would apply in cases of emergency abortion.
The measure now heads to the governor.
Brewer does not typically comment on legislation until she gets a chance to review it. But the governor has signed every measure sent to her which restricts abortion, including two in the last month alone.
"It will make abortions harder to get," said Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City. "I agree with that policy."
Gould also rebuffed complaints that this kind of legislation undermines the rights of women.
"I believe that we do have that right to control our own body," he said. "But the rub here with abortion is there's another body inside that woman's body when she's pregnant. And I believe that baby … has individual rights."
Rep. Matt Heinz, D-Tucson, said the problems for the UA should come as no surprise to legislators. He warned of the possibility when the measure was approved by the House.
"If the obstetrics and gynecology program at the university loses accreditation, 200 residents that are currently actively training … will actually have to leave," he said.