Arizona’s anti-immigration law is getting most of the publicity this week, but yesterday they also passed a law to benefit the forced-birth lobby:

On Saturday, “at the Center for Arizona Policy Family dinner before 1600 guests,” Brewer signed SB 1305, the first-in-the nation bill that would prohibit insurers in the state-run health care exchange “from providing coverage for abortions unless the coverage is offered as a separate optional rider for which an additional insurance premium is charged.

The new Arizona law is a radical mini Stupak. It prevents insurers from offering abortion services, except under the most extreme circumstances, even if only private money were used to pay for those services. Most if not all women in the exchange would only be able to purchase coverage through an impractical, separate abortion “rider” or leave the exchange entirely and find coverage in the shrinking individual health insurance market. Since it’s unlikely that many insurers will offer abortion riders or that women will purchase them in anticipation of needing an abortion — in fact, “in the five states where abortion riders are currently required, no insurance company offers them” — the Arizona law will severely disadvantage poorer women who would likely have to pay out of pocket for abortion services.

This was all predictable and predicted. The Nelson compromise really only punted the choice question to the states, and for the most part, the anti-choice lobby has more juice there, and was more able to act quickly and with precision to essentially ban exchange coverage.

Arizona is a medium-sized state, and they’ll be only the first to pass their own Stupak law. It’s part of the chipping away of abortion access that was an outgrowth of the federal health care debate. Those who didn’t want the health care bill to “become an abortion bill” caused this outcome, and as a result poor women will exist on a different tier than those who can afford to choose when to have a child.

If anything, Arizona is letting women off easy. In Oklahoma, where Gov. Brad Henry vetoed two viciously anti-choice bills, the legislature overrode the veto:

The Oklahoma Legislature voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to override vetoes of two highly restrictive abortion measures, one making it a law that women undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before having an abortion.

Though other states have passed similar measures forcing women to have ultrasounds, Oklahoma’s law goes further, requiring a doctor or technician to set up the monitor where the woman can see it and describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus. No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims.

The second measure passed into law Tuesday protects doctors from malpractice suits if they decide not to inform the parents of a unborn baby that the fetus has birth defects. The intent of the bill is to prevent parents from later suing doctors who withhold information to try to influence them against having an abortion.

That’s right, it’s now the law in Oklahoma to lie to pregnant women. These two bills were thrown out in court previously, but you never know. And the anti-choicers will just pass it again; it’s all part of their strategy to chip away at women’s rights wherever possible. Sadly, the health care debate enabled this.

David Dayen

David Dayen