Ariz. Senate Approves 20-Week Abortion Ban, Longer Waiting Period

March 26, 2012 — The Arizona Senate on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a bill (HB 2036) that would ban abortion in the state after 20 weeks of gestation, the AP/Arizona Republic reports. If the measure is approved by a formal Senate vote, it must return to the House for final approval before going to the governor (AP/Arizona Republic, 3/22).

The bill's supporters claim that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks and that abortion care beyond that point increases health risks for women. Six states have passed laws based on the disputed fetal pain theory, which conflicts with research concluding that fetuses do not develop the ability to feel pain until at least 24 weeks of gestation or possibly much later (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/8).

The bill would revise existing state "informed consent" laws to require that the health department maintain a website with information on alternatives to abortion, medical risks of the procedure, and descriptions and images of fetal development. The bill would also increase the current requirement that a woman receive an ultrasound one hour before an abortion to 24-hours and require abortion clinics to post notices that it is illegal to coerce a woman into seeking abortion care.

Senate Democrats on Thursday offered several amendments, including one that would require "informed consent" requirements for men seeking treatment for erectile dysfunction (AP/Arizona Republic, 3/22). Sen. Linda Lopez (D), said, "If this Legislature decides it's going to wear white coats and stethoscopes and insert itself into women's sexual health, then they should also make sure that they are inserting themselves into men's sexual health" (Fischer, Capitol Media Services/East Valley Tribune, 3/23).