AZ Senate Votes to Ban Abortions After 20 Weeks with Some Exceptions

Mar 23, 2012

The legislation is based on the premise that a fetus is able to experience pain at that point in development. Senator Nancy Barto of Phoenix cited testimony of a doctor who said that a 20-week fetus has sensory receptors all over its body. Barto also said there is evidence that, the later along a pregnancy, the greater the chance of complications for the mother. But Senator Linda Lopez of Tucson said proponents really want to interfere with a woman's legal right to an abortion.

"We should not be inserting ourselves into the private lives of our women of our community members," said Lopez. "We should not be putting ourselves into the medical examining rooms. We need to stay out of people's bedrooms, out of the medical examining rooms and out of people's personal lives."

And Lopez chided supporters of this legislation who have said on other occasions they want less government intrusion into private lives. But Snowflake Republican Sylvia Allen said this is different. "This debate is about life and it's about a small tiny little life form that has no voice to speak for itself."

The legislation does more than impose criminal penalties on doctors who perform an abortion at 20 weeks or beyond, including a possible six month jail term. It also contains new requirements for what a doctor would have to tell a woman prior to an abortion. That includes not only medical information but that the state has a web site that lists services to assist a woman and her unborn child, and contact information for adoption agencies willing to place newborns. Tucson Democrat Olivia Cajero Bedford told colleagues that if they are so concerned about informed patients, they should not limit that to women seeking an abortion. So she proposed an amendment of her own for informed consent for men.

"At least 24 hours before issuing a prescription for a drug intended to treat the symptoms of erectile dysfunction the physician must conduct a cardiac stress test and obtain the results in writing stating that the patient's cardiac health is compatible with sexual activity," said Bedford.

Senator Barto, however, called the proposal unnecessary.

"I'm not hearing a lot of talk about whether or not men are complaining that they haven't been informed of the risks of taking ED medication," said the Phoenix Republican. "But we have been informed of many women who have said they regretted their abortions based on the fact that they haven't been informed."

Barto said there are "devastating'' physical and psychological complications, including problems with future pregnancies as well as an increased risk of anxiety, sleep disorders and suicide. Anyway, she said, abortion is different because it involves a woman choosing whether to end the life inside her. But Lopez said the principle is the same.

"If this Legislature decides that it's going to wear white coats and stethoscopes and insert itself into women's sexual health, then they should also make sure that they also inserting themselves into men's sexual health," said Lopez. "If women are supposed to have this kind of informed consent, then men ought to have the same kind of informed consent about any kind of drug that they're taking with regards to their sexual health."

The measure needs a roll-call vote before going to the House.