Arizona Senate panel approves ban on abortions for genetic issues

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Arizona Legislature (file)

A proposal that would make it a crime in Arizona for a doctor to perform an abortion because the fetus has a genetic abnormality such as Down syndrome was approved by a state Senate panel on February 4. The measure also adds a host of other provisions to the state’s already tough anti-abortion laws.

Republican Senator Nancy Barto of Phoenix declared her proposal protects the most vulnerable and restores dignity to aborted fetuses by demanding that they be buried or cremated. It also repeals an old law allowing women to be charged with seeking an abortion, which Barto said was necessary in the event the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that found that women had the constitutional right to request an abortion.

“This bill will stop abortions based solely on the child’s genetic abnormalities,” Barto said. “My bill also protects the women of Arizona. They deserve more than to have their health on the line for the benefit of the abortion industry’s bottom line.”

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee all opposed the measure, which they say infringes on a woman’s right to make health decisions in consultation with her doctor.

“It will certainly chill this kind of medical advice because a doctor faces up to 8 years in prison for informing his patient of these abnormalities, said Democratic Tucson Senator Kirsten Engel.

Doctors who perform abortions because the mother decides she does not want to carry a child with a genetic abnormality risk between two and almost nine years in prison. There are exceptions for medical emergencies. The proposal also grants full civil rights to unborn children, allows the father of an aborted child to sue, and prohibits spending any state money with organizations that provide abortion care, while prohibiting state universities to provide abortion care.

Another provision prohibits the delivery by post of drugs inducing abortion. Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, which annually introduces anti-abortion bills in the state Legislature, said medical abortions are more dangerous than surgical abortions.

“There’s a national push to send abortion pills through the mail,” Herrod said. “Women who take chemical abortion pills are four times more likely to have complications than those who have surgical abortions.”

The Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice group that advocates for access to safe abortions, disputes Herrod’s claim that medical abortion is more dangerous.

“The attacks we see on medical abortion have nothing to do with safety, it is a matter of policy, because evidence shows that the risk of abortion complications, including medical abortion, is extremely low,” said Elizabeth Nash, spokeswoman for the organization.

Planned Parenthood also opposes the bill.

“This bill is about restricting abortion care and prohibiting abortion, and it’s not about protecting people with disabilities as the sponsor would have us believe,” said Marilyn Rodriguez of Planned Parenthood Advocates. of Arizona. She called it a “cruel attempt to once again limit abortion, this time targeting families seeking the option after learning that their fetus has developed a disability.”

The proposal is one of many proposed in the Republican-controlled Legislature this year, including one that would require prosecutors to charge women who decide to have abortions and doctors who perform homicide procedures. That proposal by GOP Rep. Walt Blackman was not assigned to a committee.

Republican-dominated legislatures in several states that have been emboldened by the possibility that a more conservative Supreme Court could overturn the Roe decision have passed proposals that could ban abortion completely this year.

For example, South Carolina lawmakers are considering a “heartbeat bill” that would effectively ban abortion because most women don’t know they are pregnant until a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

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