Arizona bishops say 15 week abortion ban will protect women and their unborn children

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who has signed a law barring abortions based on non-fatal genetic disorders, speaks at an awards luncheon in Scottsdale, Ariz., June 17, 2019. Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey speaks at an awards luncheon in Scottsdale, Ariz., June 17, 2019. | Gage Skidmore via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Catholic bishops of Arizona this week expressed gratitude at the passage of a 15 week abortion ban in the state. 

The bill, which Republican Governor Doug Ducey signed into law March 30, prohibits abortions after 15 weeks except in medical emergencies affecting the life and health of the mother. 

“Protecting life at this stage of development is important. Well before 15 weeks, the preborn baby already takes on ‘human form’ in all relevant aspects,” the bishops wrote.

“In fact, by 12 weeks of gestational age she can already open and close fingers, make sucking motions, and sense stimulation from outside the womb. Perhaps because of these reasons, the 15-week ban in SB 1164 is much more in line with the rest of the world in terms of abortion laws.”

The bishops’ statement included the names of Thomas Olmsted and Eduardo Nevares of Phoenix, James Wall of Gallup, Edward Weisenburger of Tucson, and John Pazak of the Ruthenian Eparchy of Phoenix. 

“[I]t is recognized by the abortion industry that women seeking abortions do so because of stressful circumstances, financial pressure, and relationship discord. This is a tragedy, and it is the reason why we continue to advocate for solutions to these problems other than the taking of an innocent life through abortion,” the bishops concluded. 

The measure is not currently enforceable because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, but could be allowed to come into effect depending on the outcome of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which the Supreme Court is considering a 15 week ban in Mississippi.

The 15 week ban is one of at least two pro-life measures in Arizona that is currently unenforceable, the other of which is a total ban on abortion which is over a century old. 

Arizona has passed several pro-life measures since 2009, including a provision that minors must have notarized consent from one parent to obtain an abortion. The state also in 2011 passed a ban on abortions based on the race or sex of the unborn child or based on the race of a parent. Arizona also has a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions, laws that bar non-physicians from carrying out abortions, and laws against telemedicine abortions.

And in 2015, the Arizona legislature passed a law barring abortion coverage from all health plans offered through the state's health insurance exchange.

A law Ducey signed in April 2021 prohibits abortions done solely because of a nonlethal genetic abnormality, such as Down syndrome. Any doctor performing an abortion is required to complete and affidavit stating that they are not aborting the baby because of a nonlethal abnormality, and the doctor must inform the woman it is illegal to do so.

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