The Skinny

Assault on Abortion Rights

New anti-abortion legislation doesn't make exceptions for rape or incest

There's not a lot that state lawmakers can do about abortion at this point. They've passed a lot of restrictions since 2009, when Jan Brewer took over the governor's office. Some of them have been blocked by the courts; others have become law.

But Arizona's anti-abortion lawmakers have found another way to hamstring access to abortion, at least for poor and middle-class women. Senate Bill 1318 passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee last week, and the Senate Rules Committee on Monday, Feb. 16. The legislation, sponsored by a big mix of Republican lawmakers, has two major provisions. One would require that abortion clinics have a physician with admitting privileges at hospitals, while the other would block insurers from selling health coverage for abortion services in the federal marketplace—even if women are paying an extra charge so that taxpayer money is not involved.

And guess what? There's no exception for coverage for abortions for women who became pregnant as the result of rape or incest. In other words, if you get pregnant after you're raped, the backers of this legislation think you should have to pay for your own abortion or bear your rapist's child.

Planned Parenthood Arizona President and CEO Bryan Howard testified against the bill, saying the part about having a physician with admitting privileges—a popular new way to hamstring abortion providers across the country—was "redundant."

"Arizona law already mandates that a physician with admitting privileges be present until each patient is stable and ready to be discharged," Howard said. "In compliance with this requirement, all of Planned Parenthood Arizona's physicians have admitting privileges."

More troubling, he said, was the provision that would block abortion coverage as part of the policies sold on the federal exchange.

"The proposal to exclude abortion from all federal health insurance marketplace plans is indeed harmful," Howard said. "It prevents citizens from deciding what coverage they need, while continuing to omit any protection for women who are survivors of rape or incest. This exclusion is out of step with Arizonans' values."

Howard made another point in his testimony. Despite the advancement of dozens of anti-abortion bills since 2009—28 by his count—the number of abortions in Arizona have continued to climb from 10,045 abortions in 2009 to 13,254 in 2013, according to state officials.

"Nobody wanted that," Howard said. "Certainly not Planned Parenthood."

But, Howard added, some state lawmakers continue to demonize contraception and make it more difficult for schools to teach sex education.

"When year after year reproductive health legislation focuses exclusively on restricting abortion, we are suffocating any discussion of preventing the need for abortion through family planning and sexual health education," Howard said. "The fact is that half of all Arizona pregnancies are unintended, and unintended pregnancies are more likely to end in abortion. For those truly interested in reducing abortion, the only thing that is going to make a difference is to discuss how education and family planning can reduce unintended pregnancy."

Congressional Scramble

Yes, we know it's way too early, but here are a few notes on Election 2016

Republican Gary Kiehne, who nearly upset former Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin in the 2014 GOP primary, wants to run again for the congressional seat held by Democratic Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick.

Kiehne, a rancher, oilman and rodeo cowboy, recently announced his plans on Emil Franzi's "Inside Track" radio show.

"We got it in early to ask for everyone's support," Kiehne said. "We made a decent showing last time for a candidate that's never run before and came within 407 votes of the sitting Arizona Speaker of the House."

Kiehne had a refreshing air of authenticity to him, but he also had a tendency to say stupid things on the campaign trail—like the time he parroted a debunked chain email and suggested that 99 percent of mass shooters were Democrats during a discussion on gun violence, or when he explained that the country got off track when teachers stopped beating children: "We have to put discipline back in our school systems, because that's where all the screw-ups started. When they quit whipping kids in school for messing up."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fired off an email last week reminding the press about those gaffes and others, which is just a sign that it's going to be a long campaign season.

Kirkpatrick, BTW, has proven to be more resilient than the NRCC and others had anticipated in CD1, a massive district that stretches from Oro Valley and Marana all the way up to the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff and beyond. She first won office in 2008, was knocked out in the 2010 GOP wave, and then came back in 2012. (It helped that the redistricting made CD1 more competitive than it had been.) She expanded her winning margin in 2014 against Republican Andy Tobin, even as the NRCC and other outside groups threw a fortune at unseating her.

The DCCC is also taking early aim at Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally. Last week, the DCCC named McSally as one of their prime targets in 2016 because she defeated Democrat Ron Barber by just 167 votes last year.

It's true that CD2 has the makings of a competitive district, as the recent close races of 2010, 2012 and 2014 have demonstrated. And 2016 will be a presidential election year, which will likely bring out more Democratic voters than 2014 did.

The challenge for Democrats is figuring out a candidate that can knock down McSally, who was one of the top fundraisers in the country and who is working hard to build political alliances across the spectrum. (McSally, for example, is working on an initiative to battle sex trafficking with Democratic City Councilman Steve Kozachik and Republican Supervisor Ally Miller, which spans a wide expanse of the local political spectrum.)

So far, the only Democrat to file exploratory paperwork for a run against McSally is state lawmaker Bruce Wheeler. Wheeler is a sharp lawmaker who has been in the political game for a long time. He was first elected to the Legislature way back in the 1970s and served on the Tucson City Council in the late '80s and early '90s before taking a break from elected office until he returned to the Legislature.

"It's a seat I think I can take," Wheeler said. "She has a formidable fundraising machine but my take on it is, I think I have a realistic and good shot at winning the primary and I understand fully that a general election against Martha McSally is going to be very difficult and very challenging, but I think it's doable."

Among the other potential candidates whose names pop up when we ask Democratic Party insiders: Ann Walden, who owns the pecan groves down near Green Valley and Matt Heinz, a former state lawmaker who challenged Barber in the 2012 primary. But we hear state lawmakers Steve Farley and Randy Friese are not interested in running in 2016.

With the election still nearly two years away, a lot of these dynamics can change. But hey, with the lack of candidates interested in running for Tucson City Council, what else do we have to gossip about?

"Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel" airs every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on KGUN-9. This week's show features highlights from a January League of Women Voters panel about the 2014 election that included candidates, political consultants and journalists.

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