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Under new Arizona law, women seeking abortions will be asked why

(Pixabay Photo)

PHOENIX – Women seeking abortions in Arizona will now be asked for a specific reason why under a controversial law that went into effect at the start of the year, but they can decline to answer.

The legislation, which was signed by Gov. Doug Ducey in April, requires doctors who provide abortions to ask for additional information beyond what was previously mandated by state law.

“There are groups that do not like this law, and it is possible that it could be challenged in the future in the courts,” KTAR News 92.3 FM legal expert Monica Lindstrom said.

Physicians already had been required to gather data about the procedure and submit it to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

“The law collects information which will be presumably be used by lawmakers and policymakers in the future,” Lindstrom said.

The changes were introduced by Republican Sen. Nancy Barto, who told ABC15 in an emailed statement that an update of the reporting law was overdue.

“We took the best practices from other states and applied them in Arizona and added critical protections for women who are victims of sex trafficking,” the statement said.

“These women are often coerced into having abortions by their captors, so ensuring they have an escape avenue when they come to an abortion clinic is an important provision in the bill.”

Under the previous law, doctors had to ask women only whether the abortion was elective or due to health considerations.

That’s been amended to include a list of specific reasons to choose from, including that the pregnancy was the result of sexual assault, incest, sex trafficking or domestic violence.

However, there is no penalty if a patient declines to provide a specific reason, Lindstrom said.

“You can bet that at Planned Parenthood we will be letting our patients know that right up front,” Jodi Liggett, vice president of external affairs for Arizona Planned Parenthood, told ABC15.

If a woman provides a reason, it will be become part of her medical record.

“And that’s going to follow her for the rest of her life,” Lindstrom said.

However, the information sent to the state will not include identifying factors.

“Policymakers will not be allowed to know the woman’s name,” Lindstrom said. “They will just receive the information in an anonymous format.”

The Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence was among the groups opposing the law, which was passed in both houses of the Legislature almost entirely along party lines, with the majority Republicans prevailing.

“We support women’s rights, we support data collection. This isn’t the way to do it,” the coalition’s Jason Vail Cruz told ABC15, adding that the new requirements “could really be traumatizing for sexual violence survivors.”

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