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Abortion bills in the state Legislature, as well as cuts to Planned Parenthood approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, have some Democrats and abortion rights activists crying foul.

House Bills 2443 and 2416 would both place restrictions on abortions in Arizona. Planned Parenthood is on the chopping block because of claims by Republicans that the nonprofit family health organization is indirectly funded with federal dollars to provide abortions.

Rep. Matt Heinz, D-Tucson, said despite Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, there have been repeated attempts to circumvent that law.

“We have a situation where many states, especially those in control by the Republican Party, whittle away at women’s reproductive rights,” Heinz said. “They kind of nibble around the edges because they cannot directly ban all abortions.”

HB 2443, sponsored by Rep. Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, would prevent abortions in Arizona on the basis of race or gender, a problem encountered in countries like India and China.

Montenegro did not immediately respond to interview requests.

During a floor debate last week, Montenegro pointed to the high number of abortions in certain racial groups, as recorded by the Arizona Department of Health Services in 2009, as evidence of race selection.

Nursing junior Angela Bevilacqua, president of Students for Life, an anti-abortion group on ASU’s Tempe campus, said she supports Montenegro’s bill.

“Even though [race or gender] aren’t the main reasons for abortions, anything that’ll limit abortions is absolutely necessary,” Bevilacqua said. “Having an abortion based on race, that’s [reprehensible]. [The bill] would help prevent that from happening.”

Heinz, a practicing medical doctor in Tucson, disagrees with the assertion that abortions are occurring in Arizona based on race or gender. He said that numbers from ADHS do not support that claim. He voted against the bill last week when it was in committee and during the floor vote.

“Supporters are asserting that somehow the identified ethnic background of those who had abortions show some ethnic preference,” Heinz said. “But many of the populations pointed out have issues with access to proper sexual education, family planning services and contraceptives that, if you have access to them, you will avoid unwanted pregnancies in the first place.”

HB 2416, sponsored by Rep. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, would place restrictions on abortion facilities and prevent doctors from administering the abortion pill via telemedicine.

Telemedicine is a method of communicating with doctors and specialists using audiovisual equipment. A patient, usually with another doctor or healthcare professional present, communicates with a specialist using a computer.

The bill would require doctors to perform an ultrasound at least an hour before the abortion and must give the woman seeking the abortion the opportunity to see the fetus and hear the heartbeat, if audible.

“I believe that we need to do everything we can to protect the health and safety of women in Arizona,” Yee said. “In the case of abortion, it’s a decision that is fraught with consequences both physical and emotional. It’s the responsibility of the Legislature to make sure informed decisions are made.”

Yee said banning the administration of the abortion pill using telemedicine is an effort to protect women. The abortion pill is more dangerous than a standard abortion, she said.

“[The Legislature] is basically saying we need to have a proper standard of care which is critical in a procedure such as abortion,” Yee said. “It’s meant to protect the health and safety of Arizonans, making sure the woman has the ability to meet with a physician.”

She said technology is not a complete replacement for in-person care.

HB 2416 passed committee last Thursday with Rep. Heinz voting against it. He said telemedicine isn’t being used in Arizona.

“It’s trying to solve a problem that does not exist,” Heinz said.

Requiring an ultrasound at least 60 minutes before the abortion is not medically necessary, he said.

“[HB] 2416 creates an additional liability that is not medically necessary,” he said. “The timeline has nothing to do with medical necessity and places an undue burden on medical providers.”

Floor debate on HB 2416 has been scheduled for Monday.

Dan Pochoda, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, was concerned by both bills and called HB 2443 silly.

“It seems to be a manufactured problem in order to get something that looks like an anti-abortion bill passed,” he said.

HB 2416 would make it more difficult for women, specifically those who live in rural areas, to obtain abortions because it eliminates telemedicine as an option, Pochoda said.

“Women in rural areas may not be able to have access to basic abortion services,” he said.

Pochoda said because the bill only bans abortions via telemedicine but does not single out other medical procedures, equal protection concerns are also being raised.

Jennifer Johnson, spokeswoman for the Arizona Democratic Party, said neither bill is necessary.

“Neither of these bills address the root problems with unplanned pregnancy and would not do anything to reduce the number of abortions,” Johnson said.

Bevilacqua, however, said she wants to see these bills pass.

“Whether the abortion is via telemedicine or you’re in the doctor’s office itself, being a person who holds life with some amount of value, I support anything we can do to prevent the number of abortions that occur,” she said.

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