Arizona Becomes First State To Officially Limit Abortion Coverage In Health Insurance Exchanges

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer with Sarah Palin

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer with Sarah Palin

The nation is rightly focused on Arizona’s draconian new immigration law, but Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) — who is running for her first full term in office this year — has just signed another regressive bill that could severely restrict women’s access to abortion coverage.

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.

Many other states are considering similar bans, but only Arizona has the distinction of leading the nation in adopting the most conservative social policies. Earlier this month, Brewer also signed a measure requiring abortion providers “to report on the individual abortions they perform. Though the names of the women would remain confidential, the bill would also require statistics on how many times courts bypassed parental consent laws, among other things.”