Ariz. lawmakers approve new abortion restrictions

2009-06-23T00:00:00Z Ariz. lawmakers approve new abortion restrictionsBy Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star

PHOENIX — State senators gave final approval Tuesday to placing new restrictions on the ability of a woman to terminate her pregnancy, leaving only action by Gov. Jan Brewer as the final hurdle to make the changes law.

HB 2564 would require a woman to wait at least 24 hours between the time she first sees a doctor and the time she actually can get an abortion.

But that time is more than a cooling-off period. The legislation spells out what has to happen at that first meeting.

The doctor who will do that procedure must discuss the risks and alternatives to the procedure as well as the probable "anatomical and physiological characteristics of the unborn child at the time the abortion is to be performed.''

And the law also would require that someone at the clinic -- it would not have to be the doctor -- tell the woman that medical assistance benefits may be available if she decides to keep the child, public and private agencies and services are available to assist during pregnancy and after childbirth, and that the father is liable for child support even if he agrees to pay for an abortion.

HB 2564, approved on a 16-12 vote, also would:

- expand existing laws that now allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions to also include other health professionals, hospitals and pharmacists. That would allow them to refuse to dispense "morning after'' pills, even to rape victims.

- spell out in statute what factors a judge may consider in determining if a minor is mature enough to have an abortion without first getting parental consent. It also requires that any parental consent form be notarized.

- permit surgical abortions to be performed only by physicians, ending the practice by Planned Parenthood Arizona of letting nurse-practitioners with specialized training to do some early-term procedures.

Gubernatorial press aide Paul Senseman said no decision has been made whether or not to sign the measure.

But Brewer already is on record as supporting a 24-hour waiting period for abortion. She also has said, in a questionnaire she filled out in 2006, she wants to prohibit abortion except when the life of the mother in danger.

Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, called the measure an improper government intervention into a private decision.

"It assumes that this Legislature knows what's best for a woman who's making one of the most difficult decisions of her life,'' she said.

"It puts this Legislature squarely between a woman and her physician, and between a woman and her family,'' Lopez continued. "This Legislature has no business in either place.''

But Sen. Chuck Gray, R-Mesa, said he will vote for anything that places new restrictions on abortion.

"In my view, when we talk about domestic violence, I think abortion is the ultimate case of severe domestic violence in which a child dies,'' he said.

Sen. Meg Burton Cahill, D-Tempe, said there wouldn't be a need for this legislation if teens were provided sufficient information about how to prevent pregnancy. She said the message of abstinence, which is taught in Arizona public schools, is not always effective.

But Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, said she doubts that teens are not aware of what causes pregnancy. She said the problem is all the messages being sent to young people in the movies, on television and in music.

"It seems like there's only one subject in America that's worth talking about or entertaining about, and that's sex,'' she said. "What is needed in our society is a return to a moral rebirth of having a society where we're not bombarded everyday with these images and these words that are coming after us.''

In separate action Tuesday, the Senate voted 20-8 to adopt a new — and presumably legal — state statute banning "partial-birth'' abortions.

Arizona outlawed the procedure in 1997 in which partially-delivered fetus is be aborted. But that law was struck down by a federal judge.

HB 2400, which also has passed the House, mirrors a federal law that bans the procedure, a law that the U.S. Supreme Court declared legal.

Sen. Paula Aboud, D-Tucson, said it is still a bad idea.

"This bill does nothing to protect a woman's health,'' she said. "It keeps doctors from using their medical judgments to decide what medical procedures are safest for a woman.''

Sen. Linda Gray, R-Glendale, said the legislation contains an exception to save the life of the mother. Other than that, she said, there is no reason for the procedure to exist.

"The mother has had six months prior to this to make a decision on what to do with the baby that is growing inside her,'' she said.

She said the existence of a federal ban is insufficient because it could be argued that federal prosecutors can bring charges only in cases involving interstate commerce. This measure, if signed by Brewer, would let county attorneys prosecute doctors.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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