Following Republican Jan Brewer’s move from secretary of state to Governor of Arizona, the state’s legislature is attempting to pass a combination of abortion-related regulations which were defeated under her predecessor, Gov. Janet Napolitano. One supporter calls the bill the "most significant" legislation ever proposed in the state.
The Center for Arizona Policy and the Arizona Catholic Conference are two major backers of the bill, which has secured 12 of 30 state senators and 27 of 60 representatives as sponsors.
The bill, HB 2564, would require women to wait 24 hours before having an abortion and would provide “informed consent” requirements, the East Valley Tribune says.
Under the proposed law, a woman considering an abortion must be provided in person the details of the nature of the killing procedure and the risks associated with it. Such women must also be told the probable gestational age of the unborn child, and the child’s “probable anatomical and physiological characteristics.”
The bill uses the phrase “unborn child” and not “fetus.”
Women seeking an abortion must also be told that medical assistance may be available for prenatal care, childbirth and neonatal care. The bill requires women be told that public and private agencies and services are available to help a woman if she chooses not to have an abortion, whether she chooses to keep the child or give him or her up for adoption.
Further, women are to be told that the father of the unborn child is required to provide child support even if he offered to pay for the abortion.
The East Valley Tribune reports that Gov. Napolitano had vetoed a less comprehensive informed consent measure in 2004, calling it “undue government intrusion into the relationship between a woman and her doctor, her family, her religious counselor, or whomever else she wishes to consult in making this most difficult of personal and medical decisions.”
The then-governor also argued the law already required that doctors obtain informed consent before performing any surgery.
Rep. Nancy Barto, a Republican from Phoenix, told the East Valley Tribune that informed consent “is not happening.”
"Women are not being told these things and given complete medical information on these procedures," she said.
Barto said that she would prefer that abortion not be legal but claimed that the measures are not aimed at undermining the legal right to abortion.
"These will not stop one abortion from occurring if a woman wanted to go ahead with it," she said. "These are just common-sense provisions that will protect the rights of women."
HB 2564 also specifies what factors a judge may consider in determining if a minor is mature enough to have an abortion without parental consent.
The bill further provides conscience protections for health professionals, hospitals and pharmacists who refuse to perform or facilitate the procurement of abortions or “morning after pills.” Arizona law already protects doctors and hospital staffers from being forced to perform abortions, but the bill is reportedly aimed specifically at “emergency contraception.”
Ron Johnson, Executive Director for the Arizona Catholic Conference, told the East Valley Tribune that people who own private businesses should not be forced to do things they find morally objectionable.
"I know a pharmacist in Prescott who owns his own pharmacy," Johnson said, saying he won’t carry emergency contraception. “He'll shut down if you force him to carry it and there'll be even less access" to medications.
He argued that those who want such medications probably could order them by phone for overnight delivery or travel further to the next drug store.
A statement from Planned Parenthood Arizona President Bryan Howard argued that the measure “makes health care less accessible and more expensive.”
CNA spoke with Ron Johnson of the Arizona Catholic Conference in a Thursday phone call.
Johnson called the bill “the most significant piece of pro-life legislation we’ve done in Arizona.”
“All proposals have gone through in the past years only to have been vetoed by Gov. Napolitano,” he explained. “Because of those vetoes, we’re bringing them back.”
“It’s going to protect women by providing them informed consent before they acquire an abortion. It’s going to protect parents by requiring parental consent, and it will protect the civil rights of health care workers.”
Noting that abortion rights advocates endorse the “right to choose,” he told CNA “We think health care workers certainly have the right to choose not to participate in an abortion.”
He said the Arizona Catholic Conference knows of a nurse who was “fired, basically removed, because she wouldn’t partake of abortion in one hospital.”
Medical students also need protection, he said.
“There was a big situation at our county hospital, which was sending residents to train at Planned Parenthood,” he remarked, saying that state law generally prohibits taxpayer dollars being used to perform abortions.
Though the hospital was a government- funded facility, the students “were learning how to do abortions at Planned Parenthood. By statute they weren’t supposed to be doing that.”
“There were some Catholic students who were really imperiled by that action, which forced them to violate their conscience.”
Johnson said there was “increasing pressure” not only in Arizona but across the U.S. to “take away rights of conscience and compel Catholic hospitals and others to partake of or refer for these activities.”
While Arizona had passed a statute in 1973 saying doctors and nurses may not be forced to perform abortions, Johnson argued that the law hadn’t foreseen new developments like chemical abortions and “morning-after” pills.
Defending informed consent and the 24-hour waiting period, Johnson said:
“We want women to be able to get all the information they need to make an intelligent and informed decision.
“We frequently know that there is a lot of coercion involved. It’s important for her to understand what options are available.
“A large number of women regret their abortions because they feel they were pressured into it only to find out they live with a lifetime of regret.
“We want to help them, and this law will make that possible,” he said.
Johnson noted another provision in the law forbids non-physicians from performing abortions, saying it was necessary because of a case where a nurse was performing surgical abortions at an Arizona Planned Parenthood facility.
He said even those who support abortion “won’t support having nurses or non-doctors doing surgery.”
“We’re hopeful that with the new change of governor we can help get this through the legislature and have these commonsense regulations become law in our state,” he told CNA.