The Skinny

Bad Medicine

The latest anti-abortion legislation advances in the Arizona House of Representatives

Anti-abortion lawmakers added a doozy of a provision to the latest effort to restrict reproductive rights of Arizona women last week.

As of our deadline, SB 1318 went to the House floor for vote and was expected to pass. The legislation could create a public-record registry of doctors who perform abortions and prevent women from being able to purchase coverage for abortion services with their own money on the online federal health-care exchange in Arizona. Even though the abortion coverage offered on the exchanges requires women to pay a special separate charge to avoid a direct subsidy, the anti-abortion crowd has insisted that because the underlying policy was subsidized by the federal government, the abortion coverage is subsidized as well.

Or, the Christian conservative Center for Arizona Policy said last week as the legislation moved through the House of Representatives: "With the latest statistics showing that nearly 90 percent of people who bought health insurance in the second year of Obamacare qualify for government help to pay their premiums, prohibiting abortion coverage on a state's exchange ensures taxpayers are not forced to subsidize abortion."

Pro-choice advocates find this argument to be a stretch; as Katha Pollitt, the editor of The Nation and the author of "Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights" put it over the weekend at the Tucson Festival of Books: "If you go to an abortion clinic, you're probably driving on a public highway, paid for by the taxpayers. So you shouldn't be able to drive to your abortion. Where does it all end?"

Pollitt pointed out that just about everyone can quibble with the use of their tax dollars on a program they disagree with.

"Show me a person—pro-choice, anti-choice—who doesn't believe their taxes go to fund something they disapprove of," Pollitt said. "I fund the war machine."

But SB 1318 took another turn last week during a hearing in the House Federalism and States' Rights Committee when Rep. Kelly Townsend offered an amendment that would require doctors to tell women who are using medication to terminate their pregnancies that if they change their minds after taking their first dose of pills, they can gobble another drug and it could reverse the effect of the abortion.

Dr. Ilana Addis, the chair of the board for the Arizona Section American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, testified that she and her colleagues "like to practice medicine that is evidence based and unfortunately, the protocol that has been suggested for reversing a medication abortion has no evidence to support it."

Addis explained that abortion medication involves two drugs that are taken within days of each other—and if the second medication isn't taken, the medication abortion won't work in about half the cases. So the anecdotes that earlier witnesses had provided about women who had "reversed" their medication abortion through the use of progesterone were not based on medical science.

Republicans on the House Federalism and States' Rights Committee instead relied on the testimony of a pro-life physician who told them he was sure from his experience that the a dose of progesterone worked, so doctors should be obligated to tell their patients that it could. The bill passed on a 5-3 vote and, earlier this week, sailed through the House Rules Committee, setting up a vote of the full House.

Jodi Liggett, public policy director for Planned Parenthood Arizona, said the bill was bad enough to begin with, but the new amendment made it much worse.

"This bill was problematic and troubling for Arizona families before yesterday's amendment," Liggett said last week. "But, for politicians to force physicians to provide information about a medical approach that is not generally accepted practice and that is undermining to the informed consent process is outrageous. This measure is further intrusion of politicians into Arizona women's personal lives. Women don't turn to politicians for advice about mammograms, prenatal care, or cancer treatments. Politicians should not be involved in a woman's personal medical decisions about her pregnancy."

There's a New Maverick in Town

Sen. Flake separates from the GOP herd on Lynch nomination, letter to Iran

The abortion debate got wrapped up in the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as the next U.S. attorney general this week.

Senate President Mitch McConnell said he wouldn't allow a vote on Lynch's nomination unless Democrats agreed to allow a vote on a human-trafficking bill that had obscure language about abortion dropped into it.

So, as of press time, gridlock was once again gripping the GOP Congress.

Incidentally, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake is one of only four Republicans who are expected to vote in favor of Lynch, who has fallen out of favor with the GOP senators because she said she believed that Obama was on solid legal ground when he issued his executive order expanding protection from deportation to up to 5 million undocumented immigrants now in the United States.

Flake has couched his support for Lynch as a way of getting rid of current AG Eric Holder.

"I disagree with Ms. Lynch on some issues, but she is well-qualified for the position," Flake said when he advanced her nomination from the Senate Judiciary Committee. "As a practical matter, every day that Ms. Lynch is delayed is another day that Eric Holder heads the Justice Department. We need to move ahead."

Flake was also one of a handful of senators who didn't sign a letter to the leaders of Iran, warning them that if they made a deal on nuclear weapons with the Obama administration, they'd do their best to unravel it as soon as possible.

Sen. John McCain not only signed the letter; he told the press that he and many others didn't really review it very careful because they wanted to get out of Washington before a snowstorm hit.

"Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel" airs Sunday at the special time of 9 a.m. on KGUN-9. This week's guests include Congressman Raul Grijalva and Pima Community College Chancellor Lee Lambert.

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