PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday signed legislation to block some women from getting insurance coverage for elective abortions.
“The American people overwhelmingly oppose taxpayer funding of abortions,” the governor said in a prepared statement. “It’s no different in Arizona where we have (a) long-standing policy against subsidizing them with public dollars. This legislation provides clarity to state law.”
But the governor did not address a potentially more controversial — and potentially illegal — provision in the bill he signed. It requires doctors to inform women that a medically induced abortion can be reversed if they act quickly enough.
Several foes said there is no scientific basis for such a claim. And proponents have conceded there are no studies to back their contention.
Instead, they cited the testimony of Allan Sawyer, an anti-abortion obstetrician, who said he has personally performed the reversal on one woman who he said was told by Planned Parenthood Arizona that it was not possible. And Sawyer told lawmakers there are 80 such cases nationwide.
Cathi Herrod, president of the anti-abortion Center for Arizona Policy, said Arizona is the first state in the nation to include such a requirement.
The broader implication of the law, which takes effect this summer, will be on individuals who are getting their insurance through the federal Affordable Care Act.
At last count there were about 204,000 such policies sold in Arizona. And about 9 out of every 10 of those individuals get some sort of federal subsidy.
Despite that, federal law spells out that coverage for elective abortions cannot be subsidized. And women who want that have to obtain it through a separate rider, with a separate premium.
Herrod, however, said the premium is only $1 a month, a figure she argued shows there really are taxpayer dollars going into the coverage.
This new law not only precludes Affordable Care Act policies from offering coverage for elective abortions but bars any sort of supplemental policy, no matter how much a woman agrees to pay.
The measure includes exceptions for coverage in case of a threat to the mother’s life or where necessary to avert “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the woman having the abortion.
There also are exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
But Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson, called that a “cruel joke.” Steele, who disclosed being molested decades ago by her grandfather, said that puts women in the position of having to prove to insurers their pregnancy was the result of either.
It is the other key provision about telling women their medication abortions are reversible, though, that is getting the most reaction — and could lead to litigation.
Medication abortions, which can be done through the first nine weeks of pregnancy, involve two separate drugs, the first to kill the fetus and the second to expel it from the womb.
Sawyer said high doses of progesterone, administered before the second drug, actually can reverse the effects of the first.
He conceded there are no medical studies to back that contention. But Sawyer said his own experience proves that it is possible.
The legislation requires that all women be told this is a possibility.
“This law would force physicians to provide patients with information that’s based in politics and not science,” said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. And she said it ignores the risks of high doses of progesterone, a naturally occurring hormone, albeit at lower doses than would be naturally occurring.
Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood Arizona, pointed out that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has concluded there is no medical basis for the provision.
“We will certainly consider all of our options, including litigation, to prevent Arizona women from being subject to this dangerous bill that forces physicians to promote unproven and medically unsanctioned practices,” he said in his own statement.