The Skinny

Abortion Probe

Gov. Ducey orders investigation into Planned Parenthood Arizona; PPA officials say there is nothing to investigate

In light of the controversy over Planned Parenthood's donation of fetal tissue and organs to medical researchers, Gov. Doug Ducey is ordering an investigation into whether Planned Parenthood Arizona participates in such a program.

Ducey said that footage from a recent video about the donation of fetal tissue for research is "horrifying and has no place in a civilized society."

He has ordered the Department of Health Services to look into whether the sale of fetal tissue is occurring with Planned Parenthood Arizona clinics and to "immediately promulgate emergency rules designed to prohibit the illegal sale of any tissue from an unborn child."

Federal law prohibits the sale of fetal tissue, but women can agree to donate their fetal tissue to medical research. Arizona law goes further in prohibiting the use of any fetal tissue in research, with very narrow exemptions.

Bryan Howard, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, says that his organization "does not have a fetal tissue donation program, however we applaud those who offer tissue donation at any time of their lives to improve medical science. We support fetal tissue donation, and have never supported the sale of fetal tissue, and claims otherwise made on the basis of a deceptively edited video are simply not true. As with all proposed health care laws and regulations, we will review any changes proposed by the Department to ensure they do not restrict access to the sexual and reproductive health services Arizona women and families need and want."

Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said Ducey was "a strong believer in the rule of law," which was driving his concern over whether Planned Parenthood Arizona was involved in a tissue donation program. Scarpinato declined to comment on whether Ducey is opposed to the use of tissue donation programs in states where the practice is not illegal. "We are focused on Arizona," Scarpinato said.

Ducey signed legislation earlier this year that prohibits women from buying insurance coverage for abortion on the federal Affordable Care Act marketplace and requiring doctors to tell women that medication-induced abortions can be reversed with the right drug. Planned Parenthood Arizona, the ACLU and Arizona doctors have sued over the latter provision, saying it would require them to lie to their patients since there is no medical evidence that a medication abortion can be reversed.

State Sen. Katie Hobbs expressed concern that that Ducey's investigation into Planned Parenthood Arizona could be a "witch hunt."

"It is entirely proper for Governor Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich to raise concerns of possible illegal activity in Arizona and their calls for investigations would be justified if there were legitimate proof of illegal tissue sales occurring in Arizona," Hobbs said in a prepared statement. But in this case, there is no such evidence and a video hatchet job by political extremists does not justify a witch hunt."

Hobbs added that Planned Parenthood clinics "provide health care to millions of women, including birth control, STD testing and treatment, cancer screenings and abortion. For thousands of Arizona women, especially working poor women, Planned Parenthood is their main source of health care."

The controversy over fetal-tissue research erupted after the anti-abortion group. Center for Medical Progress secretly taped Dr. Deborah Nucatola, the senior director of medical services for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, talking about the fetal-tissue donation program and then released a strategically edited video implying that Planned Parenthood was selling rather than donating the tissue and organs. Fetal tissue can be used in research into cures for diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said last week that Planned Parenthood does not profit from the donation program but apologized for Nucatola's tone in the undercover video.

"Our top priority is the compassionate care that we provide," Richards said. "In the video, one of our staff members speaks in a way that does not reflect that compassion. This is unacceptable, and I personally apologize for the staff member's tone and statements."

Faster Than a Speeding Ballot

Tucson voters will decide the fate of Tucson's red-light cameras

The last part of Tucson's November ballot came into shape last week when the City Clerk's Office determined that political gadfly John Kromko and his allies collected enough signatures to put the city's red-light-enforcement program up for a public vote.

The city's program has long been controversial, with supporters saying that it reduces traffic accidents and saves lives and opponents saying that it's a scam designed to raise money for the city and a step toward allowing Big Brother to further reduce our individual liberty.

The city has cameras at eight intersections designed to nab speeders and people who run red lights, as well as two mobile vans that move around the city during the day. The program started in 2007, when the city had nearly 200 collisions at the various intersections where cameras were installed. The number of collisions dropped to 61 in fiscal year 2014, according to a Tucson Police Department audit of the program.

While the amount of money collected by the city has varied from year to year, it has totaled about $8.8 million over the eight years it has been in operation.

City voters will also decide three City Council races, some minor changes to the Tucson city charter and pay raise for the mayor and city council. County voters will approve or reject an $815 million bond program.

Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel returns to the airwaves at 8 a.m. Sunday, July 26, on KWBA, Channel 8 on Cox and Comcast systems and Channel 58 on broadcast and DirecTV. The program will include a segment with Sen. Bernie Sanders from his appearance in Phoenix last weekend and a conversation about the 2016 presidential race with Bruce Ash, a Republican National Committeeman from Arizona, and attorney Jeff Rogers, the former chair of the Pima County Democratic Party.

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