Arizona's tight abortion policies are set to be tightened ever more as lawmakers in the state Senate voted 20-10 this week in favor of banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill still needs to be approved in the House and signed by Gov. Jan Brewer before becoming law.
Although the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision allowed abortions on a nationwide level, it also provided the opportunity for states to introduce bills that ban late-term abortions except in cases where the mother's life is in danger. The Arizona bill looks to take advantage precisely of that ruling, and will only allow abortions after 20 weeks in cases of medical emergencies.
The bill passed in the Senate Tuesday, with a single Republican joining nine other Democrats in opposition otothe legislation. The House now needs to pass the bill as well before Gov. Brewer can sign it into law, but Republican State Rep. Kimberly Yee, who sponsored the bill, has expressed confidence that she has enough votes to do so.
"The majority of members in the House are fully supportive of ensuring the health and safety of Arizona women and acknowledge that the state has a compelling interest in protecting maternal health," Yee said.
The bill is needed to "protect the health and safety of Arizona's women from the dangerous practices of the abortion industry," she added.
Currently, six states – Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota – have "trigger laws" waiting to make abortion illegal as soon as they receive federal approval. Opponents of abortion have argued that medical research shows that a fetus in gestation begins feeling pain at the 20-week mark, a finding that has helped buoy restrictive abortion bills in states like Arizona.
Other requirements for women seeking abortion proposed by the State Legislature include a mandatory ultrasound at least 24 hours prior to having an abortion. The state will also have to create a website that shows pictures of unborn babies in various stages of development, and details the risks and possible complications from an abortion.
Opponents of the bill, such as Bryan Howard, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Arizona, have argued that the bill is another attempt to take away women's rights in the state.
"Arizona is becoming a state where women have very little control in making their own healthcare decisions," Howard warned, promising that Planned Parenthood will protest the legislation every step of the way.