Arizona Senate approves ban on abortion coverage on federal marketplace policies



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PHOENIX — Women in Arizona won't be able to buy health insurance policies on the federal marketplace exchange that include abortion coverage under a bill approved by the Senate on Thursday.

Senate Bill 1318 passed on a 17-12 vote, with all Senate Republicans who voted supporting the bill. Democratic Sen. Catherine Miranda of Phoenix was the sole Democrat who voted for the bill.

The bill now heads to the House for action.

Supporters said the bill ensures tax dollars don't support abortions. Many people who buy insurance policies on the exchange receive government premium subsidies.

The Affordable Care Act prevents those subsidies from paying for abortion coverage directly. It requires insurers to create separate accounts for premiums to ensure federal subsidies aren't paying for abortion. But abortion opponents say money slips through.

Opponents say the bill is another of a series of efforts in recent years by the Legislature to restrict access to abortion

"This is yet another effort by politicians to insert themselves in women's health care decisions," said Sen. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix. "It says the government gets to decide what coverage you get."

Hobbs noted that even women who don't get subsidies won't be able to buy optional abortion coverage if they are one of 204,000 Arizonans who have bought a federal marketplace insurance plan.

But Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, said rather than being a "war on women" as its opponents said, the bill is about unborn babies.

"I think the worst war that has ever happened on women is before they were ever born, the millions of little baby girls that have been killed through abortion before they've ever had a chance to live, ever had a chance to even think about birth control or anything else about the reproductive system," she said.

Republican supporters said the bill is all about making sure tax dollars aren't paying for abortions.

"Frankly, most Americans abhor their money going to pay for abortions," said Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix.

The Senate adopted a Republican amendment to exclude cases of rape and incest from the bill banning coverage. The bill already included an exception for women whose lives are endangered by the pregnancy.

The bill also requires abortion clinics to increase reporting on physicians who provide services. Republicans blocked a Democratic amendment keeping the names of those doctors private on clinic license applications.

"They have been targeted, harassed, stalked, and endangered and in some cases even killed by anti-abortion extremists," Hobbs said. "This is a common sense amendment that protects these physicians that are doing nothing more than taking care of their patients."

But Barto argued against the amendment, saying it would carve out an exemption for abortion clinic licenses that other health care providers don't get.

Senate Bill 1318 is backed by the powerful lobbying group the Center for Arizona Policy, and its president, Cathi Herrod, testified for the bill when it was in the Senate Health Committee.

The Republican-controlled Arizona Legislature has enacted a series of abortion restriction laws in recent years which were signed into law by former Gov. Jan Brewer. Some of them have been blocked by the courts, but most are in effect.

The Center for Arizona Policy was an early supporter of Gov. Doug Ducey, and Democrats believe he will sign the bill. He hasn't weighed in on the legislation.

Supporters say 23 states block abortion in their insurance marketplaces. But only two other states that have federally run insurance marketplaces like Arizona does block optional abortion coverage, according to Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues coordinator with the Guttmacher Institute, which supports legal access to abortion.

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