Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, front, gives his state-of-the-state address on Jan. 12, 2015, in Phoenix.
Photo by Ross D. Franklin/AP

New law forces Arizona doctors to mislead abortion patients

Remember when the right said it opposed politicians getting between patients and physicians? Well, forget it – at least in Arizona, it appears conservatives have changed their minds.
Arizona’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, said on Monday he has signed into law a controversial measure blocking women from buying insurance that includes abortion coverage through the federal healthcare 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 have called “junk science.”
The first part of the legislative package is itself problematic. Under the new law, consumers who want to receive health care coverage through an exchange will be prohibited from buying private insurance through a private business covering a legal medical procedure that Republicans don’t like.
 
But it’s the junk science provision that rankles because of its brazen disregard for a simple principle: politicians shouldn’t force medical professionals to deliver bogus talking points to patients against their will.
 
As we discussed last week, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen far-right policymakers insert themselves into examination rooms. In Kansas a couple of years ago, Republican state lawmakers approved a proposal called the “Women’s Right to Know Act,” which, among other things, required doctors to tell abortion patients that there’s a link between breast cancer and terminating pregnancies. In reality, the National Cancer Institute insists there is no link, but GOP policymakers in Kansas didn’t care. In effect, they mandated state-endorsed lying.
 
A year later, a federal appeals court balked at a North Carolina law that required medical professionals to say things to abortion patients the doctors did not want to say, concluding that the First Amendment prohibits physicians from becoming spokespersons for politicians’ rhetoric.
 
And yet, here we are again.
 
Laura Bassett talked this week to New York City-based OB-GYN Kathleen Morrell, an abortion provider and reproductive justice advocate with Physicians for Reproductive Health, who explained why the new Arizona measure is “downright offensive.”
The “abortion reversal” provision in the bill applies to medication abortions, which require a woman to take a dose of the medication mifepristone – more commonly known as RU-486 – and, days later, a dose of the drug misoprostol. George Delgado, a doctor who opposes abortion, said in a 2012 study in the journal Annals of Pharmacotherapy that he had developed a way to reverse the abortion procedure before the woman had taken her dose of misoprostol, in case she changed her mind after taking the first one. Delgado reported that he injected six women with the hormone progesterone after they took their first dose of abortion medication, and that four of them went on to have live births.
 
The problem with Delgado’s study, Morrell said, is that mifepristone only causes a complete abortion on its own about 40 percent of the time, because it is meant to be used in combination with the second medication. So the fact that four out of six women in Delgado’s study went on to have live births does not necessarily mean the progesterone was responsible for keeping the abortion from being completed. And there is no other research to back up Delgado’s study or to test the safety of his experimental procedure.
But these details proved to be irrelevant to Arizona Republican policymakers – medical professionals will now be legally required to give patients unscientific information, simply because far-right politicians in the state say so.
 
Or as Amanda Marcotte recently put it, “You should be able to get through an abortion without having to indulge a right-wing delusion.”
 
In Arizona, that’s no longer the case.
 

Abortion, Arizona, Reproductive Rights and War On Women

New law forces Arizona doctors to mislead abortion patients