State House votes to extend oversight of medical abortions - East Valley Tribune: Politics

State House votes to extend oversight of medical abortions

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Posted: Monday, February 28, 2011 3:07 pm | Updated: 1:02 pm, Tue Mar 1, 2011.

Claiming these abortions are dangerous, the state House voted Monday to require the same physician oversight of a medical abortion as one performed surgically.

State law already allows only doctors to perform surgical abortions. HB 2416 extends that to pregnancies that are terminated with the use of RU-486, a drug that causes a woman to abort.

Rep. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, said the exception in the law needs to be closed.

"Medication abortions have very serious complications and are not a safer alternative to medical abortions,'' she said. "In fact, instructions for the abortion pill say nearly all women who receive the abortion pill will report adverse reaction.''

Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood, said the net effect will be fewer places that women can have a pregnancy terminated. That not only eliminates abortions by his organization at its rural clinics but, because of a shortage of qualified doctors, even at many of the locations in the state's two urban areas.

He said that will result in delays which, in turn, increase the risk of the procedure.

Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, said the provision runs counter to the stated goals of sponsors to protect the health of women.

"I suggest we don't continue down this path of continuing to limit and reduce, limit access to legal and safe abortion,'' she said. "What we will do is return to the days of illegal back-alley abortions where there are no standards of care, no concern for the safety of the women obtaining these procedures.''

Yee's legislation also requires that doctors perform an ultrasound and fetal heartbeat examination at least an hour before the procedure and then give the woman the opportunity to view both. But nothing in the bill requires a woman to do either.

Separately, the House voted to eliminate tax credits for donations to certain charities, a measure specifically aimed at abortions.

Current law allows individuals a dollar-for-dollar credit for donations to charitable organizations that spend half of their funds on the poor, chronically ill or physically disabled, up to $200 for individuals and $400 for couples. HB 2384 says those credits cannot be taken unless the charity spells out it "does not provide, pay for, promote, provide coverage of or provide referrals for abortions and does not financially support any other entity that provides, pays for, promotes, provides coverage of or provides referrals for abortions.''

Hobbs complained about the breadth of the change, particularly language cutting off credits for groups that promote or provide referral for abortion.

"There's not a lot of clarity around what that means,'' she said. "It really ties the hands of organizations that provide a wide variety of services.''

Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, said nothing in the measure precludes a charity from giving clients a list of options, including abortion. She said what they cannot do -- and have their donors remain eligible for tax credits -- is refer someone for an abortion.

Herrod, whose organization helped craft the legislation, said that would not need to be a formal "referral.'' She said simply providing the name or address of any organization that provides abortion would constitute a referral, even if a client asked a doctor or staffer where she cold exercise the legal option of terminating a pregnancy.

Another section of the legislation forbids the use of not only state tax dollars but also any tuition funds to train people to perform abortions. Rep. Matt Heinz, D-Tucson, said he believes this could jeopardize the national accreditation of that OB/GYN graduate medical education program which requires that abortion be an option for students.

"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.

Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, said she doesn't believe her measure will harm the program. UA lobbyist Greg Fahey said the school is studying the provision.

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