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Pro-lifers denounce Ariz. ruling | (UPI) -- The right-to-life movement Wednesday angrily denounced a split decision by the Arizona Supreme Court that expands the access low-income women have to state-funded abortions that are considered "medically necessary," a muddled term far from the existing "imminent danger" provision that currently exists.

The court ruled 3-2 Tuesday that since Arizona already pays for abortions for poor women whose lives are in imminent danger or have been the victim of rape or incest, the state must fund all such procedures that are deemed necessary to protect the health of the expectant mother.

"This 'medically necessary' excuse for taxpayer-funded abortions creates a loophole so big that Planned Parenthood can now drive a Mack truck through the wallets of Arizona taxpayers," accused an angry Shane Wikfors, Executive Director of Arizona Right to Life.

Critics of the decision said the state had no statutes on the books that defined any specific guidelines for a medically necessary abortion, a situation that, they warned, would greatly expand the circumstances under which the taxpayers would wind up footing the bill for a procedure many people already object to.

"Among abortion-law experts, 'medically necessary' abortions have come to mean any variety of reasons including emotional, economic or even familial health reasons," Wikfors' organization said in a press release.

The justices, however, concluded that abortion funding should be expanded to all poor women to whom pregnancy poses a health risk.

"It is not about whether the state must fund abortions for non-therapeutic or contraceptive purposes or, for that matter, any purpose," Justice Stanley Feldman wrote in the majority opinion. "The narrow and only question decided is this: Once the state has chosen to fund abortions for one group of indigent, pregnant women for whom abortions are medically necessary to save their lives, may the state deny the same option to another group of women for whom the procedure is also medically necessary to save their health?"

Feldman noted that the Arizona case was not about the legality of abortion in general, which was covered by the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Roe v Wade decision in 1973.

Critics chastised Feldman as being a "pro-abortion" lawyer who represented Planned Parenthood some 30 years ago, and vowed to change the law so that state-funded abortions would be limited once again, if not outright banned.

"Every public opinion poll makes clear that whether people are pro-life or pro-choice, they don't want to see taxpayer funds used for abortion," declared Len Munsil, president of the Center for Arizona Policy. "We will be looking at all options, including a change to our state constitution, to redress this reprehensible decision."

The case stemmed from a lawsuit filed in Phoenix against the state by a group of abortion providers who contended that pregnancy interfered medically with the prescribed treatment of a wide array of health problems such as cancer, epilepsy, severe mental illness, lupus and irritable bowel syndrome.

"In many of the women suffering from these diseases, suspension of recognized therapy during pregnancy will have serious and permanent adverse effects on their health and lessen their life span," the decision said.

The plaintiffs argued that Arizona's constitution required the state to provide "necessary" medical care for indigents, and the state therefore could not exclude abortions.

In her dissent, Justice Rebecca White Berch pointed out there was nothing presently within the Arizona constitution requiring the state to pay for any abortions, and felt the court had overstepped its bounds in broadening the number of instances that would qualify for a state-funded procedure.

"Generally, when a court finds a statute unconstitutional, it strikes the offending provision, clause, or word," Berch wrote. "In this case, however, the court has taken the liberty of simply rewriting the statute, substituting the word 'health' for the legislature's chosen term, 'life.'"

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