Arizona Senate panel OKs ban on abortion insurance policies

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX (AP) -- Arizona women would be barred from buying optional abortion coverage on insurance plans bought on the federal marketplace under legislation approved by a Senate committee Wednesday.

Senate Bill 1318 is backed by the powerful lobbying group the Center for Arizona Policy, which is pushing the bill sponsored by Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix.

Four Republicans on the Senate Health Committee advanced the bill Wednesday over opposition of three Democrats.

Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod testified that the legislation is designed to prevent taxpayer funding for abortion. The bill also tightens some abortion clinic reporting requirements, requiring them to certify annually that their physicians have hospital admitting privileges.

Herrod says the bill simply amends a 2010 law that applied to a state-run exchange Arizona never adopted.

Senate Bill "1318 does not prohibit one abortion, that is a point that needs to be made very clearly," Herrod said. "It goes simply to the issue of taxpayer funding and the admitting privileges issue."

But the previous law allowed optional coverage that carried an extra premium, ensuring that federal subsidies don't go to providing abortions while coverage is available.

Opponents say the bill harms women by preventing them from choosing coverage they may need.

Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood of Arizona, called the bill harmful to women.

"It prevents citizens from deciding what coverage they need, while continuing to omit any protection for women who are survivors of rape or incest," Howard said in prepared remarks. "This exclusion is out of step with Arizonans' values."

Arizona has enacted a series of abortion restriction laws in recent years. Some have been blocked by the courts, but most are in effect.

Only two other states that have federally run insurance marketplaces block optional abortion coverage, according to Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues coordinator with the Guttmacher Institute, which supports legal access to abortion.

Nash said the effort to block insurance coverage for abortions is part of a larger push by abortion opponents.

"State legislators, especially in very conservative states like Arizona, are always looking for ways to restrict abortion," Nash said.

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