State Senate panel OKs abortion restrictions - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

State Senate panel OKs abortion restrictions

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Posted: Wednesday, June 10, 2009 1:27 pm | Updated: 1:40 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Arizona is one step closer to putting a series of new restrictions on the ability of women to get an abortion.

The Senate Committee on Public Safety and Human Services voted 4-3 Wednesday to require a 24-hour waiting period between the time someone talks with a doctor about terminating a pregnancy and the time the procedure can be performed.

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But that would not simply be a delay. SB1206 also requires that the doctor who will perform the procedure personally give women certain information to consider, ranging from the risks and alternatives to probably "anatomical and physiological characteristics of the unborn child at the time the abortion is to be performed."

Women also would have to be told ahead of time that medical assistance benefits may be available if they decide to keep the child, public and private agencies and services are available to assist during pregnancy and after childbirth, and that the father is liable for child support even if he agrees to pay for the abortion.

That counseling, however, would not have to be done by the doctor. But it also would have to be done in person.

Other provisions of the bill include:

Allowing health professionals, hospitals and pharmacists to refuse to perform abortions, a right now reserved only for doctors. It also would allow these professionals to refuse to provide "morning after" pills, even to rape victims, with no requirement that they tell a woman where she could get them.

Spelling out in statute what factors a judge may consider in determining if a minor is mature enough to have an abortion without first getting parental consent. It also requires that any parental consent form be notarized.

Permitting surgical abortions to be performed only by physicians, ending the practice by Planned Parenthood Arizona of letting nurse-practitioners with specialized training to do some early-term procedures. That, however, does not affect the ability of nurse-practitioners to perform procedures where the fetus is aborted through the use of medications.

In separate action Wednesday, the same committee voted 5-1 for SB1138, which adopts a new - and presumably legal - state statute banning "partial-birth" abortions.

Identical measures already have been approved by the House. That leaves only the vote of the full Senate to send both to Gov. Jan Brewer, who already is on record as wanting to ban all abortions except to save the life of the mother.

Approval of the legislation with the waiting period came over the objections of Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood Arizona, which he said performed 10,000 abortions last year.

He said it makes no sense to require women to make an extra trip to a clinic, incurring the cost of lost wages, transportation and child care just for the face-to-face counseling. Howard said there is no reason that information cannot be provided over the phone.

Potentially more significant, Howard said it would end abortions in seven communities that now are staffed only with nurse-practitioners. While they would still legally be able to perform "medication abortions" with RU-486, there is no doctor available to perform the required preabortion counseling.

Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, said the legislation is necessary.

"It's intended to empower women by making sure that they have full and adequate information before they make the decision," said Herrod, whose organization opposes all forms of abortion. And she said it is not right that most women do not actually see the doctor who is performing the abortion until the day and time of the procedure.

"I don't know of many medical procedures that you would pick up the phone, you would call, you would make an appointment, you would go in for your first appointment, you would get the diagnosis and you would have the procedure all done at the same time," Herrod said. She said in virtually any other medical situation a patient would first meet with a doctor to talk about alternatives and whether this is the best option.

The other legislation alters Arizona's original 1997 law that outlawed the procedure under which a partially-delivered fetus can be aborted. That law never took effect after a federal judge concluded it was flawed.

Since that time, however, Congress has adopted its own ban on late-term abortions. SB1138 mirrors the language of that federal law that the U.S. Supreme Court declared legal.

Backers say the state needs its own ban to allow local officials to investigate and prosecute cases if federal attorneys do not get involved.

Sen. Linda Gray, R-Glendale, called it "a horrible procedure."

Lawmakers approved the measure last year - twice - only to have both versions vetoed by Gov. Janet Napolitano.

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