Arizona bill claims drug-induced abortion is 'reversible,' bans subsidies

Reuters / Mike Stone
Legislators in Phoenix passed a controversial bill prohibiting the purchase of abortion coverage through the federal healthcare exchange and requiring doctors to state that drug-induced abortions are “reversible.”

Senate Bill 1318, proposed by Republican lawmaker Nancy Barto, passed the Arizona Senate on Wednesday after an 18-11 vote and is awaiting signature by Governor Doug Ducey. If signed into law, it would make it illegal to purchase any healthcare plan on the federal healthcare market that includes abortion coverage.

Arizona already requires those who want abortion coverage to pay for a separate insurance rider. The new bill would eliminate that option. The latest federal statistics show that more than 200,000 Arizona residents have insurance plans through the federal exchange, and 75 percent receive subsidies.

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This is a great day for women in Arizona who are considering getting an abortion,” and a “great day for Arizona taxpayers,” Cathi Herrod of the conservative Center for Arizona Policy told Reuters.

A particularly controversial provision in the bill is the requirement that doctors inform patients that a particular abortion procedure is “reversible.” It was inserted by a House committee member last month, after one doctor testified he had successfully reversed a drug-induced abortion at 10 weeks, using the female hormone progesterone. If a woman has taken the first of the two drugs needed to complete the abortion procedure, but not the second, he argued, progesterone could reverse the procedure.

It's experimental. It's untested, and if we don't know it works then why are we doing it?” Dr. Kathleen Morrell, an abortion doctor and advocate at Physicians for Reproductive Health, told AP. “We have piles of research behind what we're doing. They don't have a pile,” she added, demanding evidence for the claim.

I think it’s medical malpractice, and I don't think we should be inserting that into state statute,” said Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs, a Phoenix Democrat, who further blasted the provision as “junk science” and “quack medicine.”

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Earlier this month, Dr. Eric Reuss of the Arizona section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) blasted the bill as “legislative overreach.” Writing in The Arizona Republic, Reuss argued that “there is absolutely no evidence-based data” that the procedure could be reversed, and that if passed, the law would “force physicians to impart hearsay to their patients.”

Though the bill provides an exception for victims of rape or incest, critics argue that forcing the women to disclose this to their insurance providers is demeaning.

That is a cruel joke,” argued Rep. Victoria Steele, a Democrat from Tucson. “Imagine that someone, your daughter, is pregnant as the result of a rape... they would need to talk to their insurance company to prove they qualify for this exemption? How humiliating, how traumatizing that is.”