AZ Senate OKs ban on Planned Parenthood funding

PHOENIX - Arizona lawmakers moved to cut off Planned Parenthood's access to taxpayer money on Tuesday in the latest legislative action this year aimed at contentious reproductive health care issues.

Senate Republicans completed a legislative push to bar any public money from being funneled through the state to any abortion provider, including Planned Parenthood.

Arizona lawmakers have already approved a bill to impose new restrictions on abortion, including a ban on terminating pregnancies starting at 20 weeks after conception.

Meanwhile, a bill to loosen a state law that generally requires health care plans to cover contraception awaits a final Senate vote.

The Arizona House approved the bill to restrict funding for family planning and preventive care services previously. And the 18-8 party line vote in the Senate finished legislative action on the proposal.

Republican Gov. Jan Brewer has not indicated whether she supports the measure. The plan might not reach her desk right away, because Brewer has told lawmakers that a new state budget should be their top priority and that she won't consider any other legislation.

Arizona already bars use of public money for abortions except to save the life of the mother, but supporters of the bill say the broader prohibition is needed to make sure that no public money indirectly supports abortion services.

"Planned Parenthood's abortion-centered business model does not need or deserve taxpayers dollars," said Mary Musgrave, an executive of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group.

Planned Parenthood Arizona said the ban would disrupt services for some 19,000 women.

"Women who come to Planned Parenthood aren't making a political statement. They are coming to get the health care they need," President Bryan Howard said in a statement.

Other states that have enacted similar funding restrictions include Indiana, Kansas and Texas, while states besides Arizona that are considering restrictions include New Hampshire and Ohio.

Planned Parenthood Arizona did not respond to requests for information on the amount of money that it receives for Medicaid health care or for family planning services that would be affected by the proposed ban, but it said it would affect services for nearly 20,000 women at Planned Parenthood clinics around the state.

The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Justin Olson of Mesa, said he did not know how much money was at stake.

Olson also acknowledged that there could be a legal challenge that could leave it to a court to decide whether the legislation could be implemented.

Similar bans in several other states are tied up in litigation, and Planned Parenthood Arizona spokeswoman Cynde Cerf said the organization was studying the potential impact of the bill and considering its legal options.

Texas lost federal Medicaid funding for its Women's Health Program after the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said a state law prohibiting funding for clinics affiliated with an abortion provider violated a federal law that guarantees women the right to choose their health care providers.

Texas' attorney general has sued the federal government to have the funding restored, while clinics have sued the state.