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Arizona House approves bill banning abortion for genetic issues

Arizona Capitol. (Photo by: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

PHOENIX (AP) — The Republican-controlled Arizona House on Thursday approved a sweeping abortion bill that makes it a felony for a doctor to terminate a pregnancy because the child has a survivable genetic abnormality and imposes a raft of other provisions Democrats contend unnecessarily add to the state’s already tough restrictions on abortion.

Opposition by one Republican lawmaker who had been concerned that a woman would have to carry a fetus that could not survive were addressed by an amendment that allows a pregnancy to be terminated in that instance. But Democrats argued the bill still provides for felony charges for doctors and the loophole is so subjective that physicians will be be too scared to provide needed medical care.

“I’m not comfortable, I might have a county attorney slap charges on me,” said Democratic Rep. Randy Friese of Tucson, a trauma surgeon. “I’m not going to provide abortion termination to this patient.”

“The result? The patient carries the child to term and delivers a child that is not viable,” he said. “That is cruel and uncaring.”

Rep. Regina Cobb, the Kingman Republican who last week said she could not support the SB1457, signed on and defended the change.

The proposal backed by the social conservative group Center for Arizona Policy also contains a ban on mail delivery of abortion-inducing medication, confers all civil rights to unborn children, allows the father or maternal grandparents of an aborted child to sue, and bans the spending of any state money with organizations that provide abortion care.

The measure requires fetal remains to be buried or cremated, and it forbids state universities from providing abortion care. It also repeals an old law allowing women to be charged for seeking an abortion, needed in case the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 decision that found women have a constitutional right to seek an abortion.

“This bill is about protecting a child, a genetic disordered child. This is about protecting a disability child,” Cobb said. “This brings the doctor patient relationship back – they have to have an examination before they can take an abortion pill, so they don’t get it by mail.”

Cobb had also said she was worried that obstetricians in training would have to leave the state because of the bar on university abortions. Democrats seized on that, warning that the provision could make the state’s physician shortage worse by forcing doctors in training to go to other states to meet training requirements.

Republicans used a procedural move to shut down debate on the bill after less that 40 minutes, outraging Democrats.

“Before we go and start throwing doctors in jail for treating their patients I wish we had had a better debate,” Rep. Kelli Butler of Paradise Valley said.

The House approved the bill on a 31-29 party-line vote. It passed the Senate earlier this month along party lines, but senators need to approve the House changes before sending it to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who has regularly signed anti-abortion legislation.

An even tougher anti-abortion bill was approved by a Senate committee late Wednesday. It would ban most abortions even before many women know they are pregnant by making it a felony for a physician to perform the procedure if a fetal heartbeat can be detected. HB2140 would ban nearly all abortions because a heartbeat can often be detected as early as six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant.

There is an exception if the mother’s life is in danger, but not in the case of rape or incest. Physicians and anyone assisting them could face between two and nearly nine years in prison. The woman could not be charged.

That proposal would clearly run afoul of U.S. Supreme Court precedent that says a woman can access abortion care before a fetus is viable. But Arizona lawmakers and Republican-dominated Legislatures in several states emboldened by the possibility that a more conservative court could overturn Roe v. Wade have embraced proposals this year that could completely ban abortion.

In South Carolina, a federal judge has already been blocked a “heartbeat bill” the governor signed into law last month that would ban most abortions. In Idaho, lawmakers are also considering such a bill. In Arkansas, abortion rights groups have vowed to sue to block a new law banning nearly all abortions.

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