POLITICS

Arizona Lawmakers Approve Controversial Abortion Bill

03/26/2015 12:06 am ET | Updated May 25, 2015

PHOENIX, March 25 (Reuters) - Arizona lawmakers on Wednesday passed a controversial measure blocking women from buying insurance that includes abortion coverage through the federal health care exchange.

The fiercely-debated bill also requires doctors to tell women they could possibly reverse the effects of a drug-induced abortion, a claim that critics called "junk science."

The legislation was approved by an 18-11 vote in the Republican-controlled Senate, with two Democrats voting for it. House lawmakers on Monday approved the bill by a 33-24 margin.

It now goes to Arizona Republican Governor Doug Ducey, who has not indicated whether he will sign or veto the bill. He has said he is opposed to abortion.

A governor's spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday.

Supporters said the bill would prevent taxpayer money from paying for abortion services, as many individuals insured through the federally-run exchange receive government subsidies.

The measure exempts cases of incest, rape and life-saving situations from the coverage ban.

Opponents countered, saying there was no proof that public dollars had been used for the elective procedures and calling the law an overreach.

The Guttmacher Institute, a research group supporting the right to abortion whose reports are cited by both sides in the debate, says abortion coverage for those eligible for federal subsidies is limited to cases of rape, incest and life-endangerment.

During debate on the Senate floor, the most heated topic was the bill's requirement that patients be told the effects of abortion pills may be undone by using high doses of a hormone.

"This is junk science, this is quack medicine," said Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs, a Phoenix Democrat. "There is absolutely no evidence anywhere... that supports this as a valid medical procedure."

Backers say there is ample evidence that the reversal is possible if acted upon quickly, though they provided no peer-reviewed studies to support that claim.

"This is a great day for woman in Arizona who are considering getting an abortion to get all the facts they need and a great day for Arizona taxpayers," said Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative group that pushed for the measure.

In December, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Arizona from enforcing a state law that restricts access to abortion-inducing drugs by prohibiting off-label uses of RU-486, the so-called "abortion pill." (Editing by Curtis Skinner and Ryan Woo)

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