Arizona’s governor threw yet another political volley at Planned Parenthood Friday night, inking a law aimed at preventing thousands of women on state Medicaid rolls from accessing family-planning services—including breast exams and pap smears—from organizations that also offer abortions.
Jan Brewer signed HB 2800 into law at a gathering of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that claims on its website that its “grassroots activists” are “on the front lines in the battle to defund America's abortion giant—Planned Parenthood.”
The bill drew swift reaction from former U.S. surgeon general Richard Carmona, Arizona’s Democratic candidate for senator. At an opening of his campaign office in Phoenix on Saturday, Carmona told The Daily Beast that “anything we do to diminish access of health care to women” is bad policy.
A longtime preventive-health-care advocate, Carmona said in a statement released today: “This is an example of how politics and overheated rhetoric get in the way of common sense. Planned Parenthood provides a vast array of women’s health care services, often reaching under-served communities where health and economic disparities make access to quality care difficult.”
Bryan Howard, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, struck a similar note, telling The Daily Beast that the intent of the law is to “score political points” and “demonize” Planned Parenthood to “appease certain segments of the voting public.”
The law will reduce Planned Parenthood’s clients by about 10 percent. About 4,000 women on Medicaid, out of a total of 40,000-45,000 patients overall, visit the organization’s 14 Arizona offices, Howard said.
But the law will likely also impact thousands more who may seek family-planning services from Planned Parenthood when the Affordable Health Care for America Act takes full effect in 2014.
As late as last month, Medicaid officials were still trying to figure out the economic ramifications of the bill, according to The Arizona Republic. Officials were not available for comment on Saturday.
In a statement released in the wake of the ceremonial bill signing, Brewer said: “This is a common-sense law that tightens existing state regulations and closes loopholes in order to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to fund abortions, whether directly or indirectly.”
Asked about the political strategy behind signing the bill alongside the Susan B. Anthony List, the governor’s spokesman, Matthew Benson, wrote in an email: “Susan B. Anthony List is one of the nation’s most prominent supporters of pro-life elected officials, and HB 2800 was a high priority of the group. It only made sense to sign the measure into law in front of this group and its members.”
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Susan B. Anthony List donates mostly to Republicans. It contributed $511,416 to Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign in 2012, and in 2010 donated about $23,000 to attempt to defeat congressional Democratic pro-choice candidates Gabrielle Giffords, Raul Grijalva, and Ann Kirkpatrick. (Kirkpatrick lost; the other two won their bids.)
Brewer held off signing the HB 2800 until Tea Party legislators passed one of her top priorities: a bill that would make it easier for her to fire and discipline state employees.
Planned Parenthood is considering a legal challenge as its next step. It’s not “acceptable,” Howard said, to have the state prohibit women from choosing where they want to get birth control.