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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Legislature bans abortions 20 weeks after conception

The window of time for Arizona women to get an abortion is a pen stroke away from shrinking.

The Arizona House of Representatives voted 38-22 to pass House Bill 2036 on Wednesday, seconding the state Senate’s vote of 20-10 to ban almost all abortions 20 weeks after conception. Arizona will join six other states with similar legislation if Gov. Jan Brewer decides to sign the bill into law.

Currently, abortions can be performed up to a month after the 20-week period.

Supporters of the bill argue this extra time puts a woman’s life in greater danger. They also claim a fetus can feel pain at this point.

“This is about protecting maternal health and preventing pain,” said Republican Rep. Kimberly Yee of Legislative District 10, who is also the bill’s sponsor in the House.

Paul Liu, a pediatrician and anesthesiologist at Phoenix Children’s Hospital’s pediatric intensive-care unit, gave testimony in support of the bill. He told legislators by 20 weeks, an unborn fetus has developed pain receptors over its body. In addition, he said there are measurable changes in blood pressure and hormones when a fetus is exposed to painful external stimuli such as a needle.

Yee said she hopes the bill will reduce the number of late-stage abortions. Nearly 200 such procedures were performed in Arizona in 2011, according to statistics from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Many women who choose to receive a late-term abortion decide at some stage that it’s because they can’t afford a baby, she said.

“There were women who came to our committee and said ‘Well, you know if a woman can’t afford to have a baby they should be able to abort it,’” she said. “There were some who said it would cramp their lifestyle.”

She said 82 percent of women in Arizona who discover their baby might have Down syndrome choose to terminate their pregnancies.

“What message is this sending to those who have special needs?” she asked. “Shouldn’t they have an opportunity to live just like anyone else?”

Those against the bill claimed the Legislature is crossing the line from setting policy to practicing medicine.

Cecil Ash, a House Republican who is anti-abortion, voted against the bill. He said he believes women are entitled to know and fully understand the consequences of their decisions. However, he said when the state begins directing the course of action a patient and doctor must take, based on an arbitrary time line, it is time for legislators to back off.

“I was actually going to vote yes on the bill,” he said. “Then I got a call from a high-risk pregnancy doctor in Scottsdale who convinced me otherwise.”

He said because many fetal anomalies are discovered near the 20-week cutoff, it does not give women the time to make the difficult decision as to whether or not to end a pregnancy.

“This is a decision not for the Legislature, but for the couple in consultation with their physician,” he said. “It’s a decision that shouldn’t be rushed by legislative mandate.”

Ash pointed out that the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a professional association of practicing obstetricians and gynecologists, has taken an official stance against the bill. The organization claims the 20-week ban does not provide enough time for a pregnant patient to develop abnormalities that could present serious health risks.

In addition to preventing most abortions after 20 weeks, the bill requires that a woman have the opportunity to view her unborn baby via ultrasound and listen to its heartbeat 24 hours prior to the procedure. The state will also be required to maintain an extensive website showing alternatives to abortion as well as pictures of fetal development.

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