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Jan Brewer Abortion Ban: Extreme Anti Choice Legislation in Arizona and Utah

New Mexico

New Mexico, an island of blue in a sea of red and yellow, has managed to preserve relatively accessible family planning and abortion services in the face of increasing efforts to limit this care.

New Mexico’s last two legislative sessions have considered bills to implement parental notification. A 2011 Senate bill required a girl under 17 “to have a signed note from her parents acknowledging they've been notified about her plans for an abortion.” (Okay, gym class.) That bill died in the House. In a 2012 House version of the same bill, it states the notification must occur 48 hours prior to the procedure. Republican Governor Susana Martinez would support these bills if they pass the legislature, which none have.

But outside pressure did convince the state to drop elective abortions from coverage in a federally-funded insurance plan. The plan in question is in the “high-risk pool program,” in which neither federal health law nor executive order prohibit elective abortion coverage.

Anti-abortion extremists Operation Rescue have focused their efforts on New Mexico more vehemently in recent years, most notably after Dr. Curtis Boyd began practicing late-term abortions in Albuquerque “to fill the void left after abortion provider George Tiller was murdered while attending church in Kansas.” A New Mexico man who felt scorned by his ex-girlfriend in turn scorned her, putting their personal business on a giant public billboard accusing her of feticide. She charged him with harassment and invasion of privacy.

There is a reason such propaganda and occasional legislation has failed. In addition to the fact that New Mexico considers itself the 22nd (23rd if you count D.C.) least conservative state in the country, it is plagued by a seemingly chronic budget deficit problem. No one has time to waste with moralistic frivolity; there are real problems afoot.

Arizona

Earlier this year, Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer signed into law a fetal pain bill declaring “gestational age as beginning on the first day of the woman's last period,” thus “pregnancy as beginning two weeks before conception.” Because, you know, science is subjective. The bill goes on to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of Brewer pregnancy, or 18 weeks of normal person pregnancy, except in the case of a life-threatening medical emergency.

With this law, Arizona makes sure “more babies with fatal fetal defects are expected to be carried to term, even though they will die within minutes, hours or days.” Such defects are not normally seen on ultrasounds until about the 18th or 20th week; resulting abortions account for only about 1% of procedures. A fetus is not normally considered viable until about the 24th week.

Opponents of the law, including rights groups and physicians, first took it to court in July. The first federal judge it faced upheld its constitutionality declaring it “not a total ban,” but this ruling was immediately appealed. A Ninth Circuit appeals court blocked implementation of the law with an emergency injunction, which prevents it from taking effect for two or more months. The law was supposed to take effect on August 2.

In the same legislative session, the legislature passed a bill to require “schools teach students that adoption and birth are the most acceptable outcomes for an unwanted pregnancy” and a “wrongful birth, wrongful life” bill. The latter is a bill prohibiting “medical malpractice lawsuits against doctors who withhold information from a woman that could cause her to have an abortion.” In practice what this means is that if, for example, your baby has a fatal defect but your doctor doesn’t want you to have an abortion so neglects to tell you this important fact, you cannot sue him or her for this lie of omission.

Arizona also passed a law to defund Planned Parenthood, but that law was also blocked by a federal court. HB2800, blocked last week, would have “revoked Medicaid funding for family planning services at any health organization that also provides abortions.” Neither will the state offer abortion coverage in its health exchange program. Here is a full list of legislation both considered and passed by Arizona in recent years.

Utah

In May, Utah became the first state in the country to implement a 72-hour waiting period for abortions (while simultaneously increasing the incentive bounty for shooting coyotes from $20 to $50 per coyote).

The only clinics providing abortions in Utah are in the Salt Lake City area, which means some women are facing a trip upwards of 300 miles — one way — which they will have to repeat three days later. This requirement inordinately impacts women in poor and/or rural areas, and overturns a previous 24-hour waiting period. (Math time: 300 miles is, in my car, ¾ of a tank of gas. The full trip, 1200 miles, is three tanks of gas, \ closing in on $150.)

Utah also requires doctors provide patients with an extensive set of state-created information: “The patient must be given a written description of all common abortion procedures, she must be given a written description of fetal development throughout a pregnancy, she must be verbally informed of a fetus’ abilities to feel pain, she must be verbally informed that she has access to ultrasound services, and she must also be given information on the “psychological” risks of abortion. That information will include only negative or detrimental effects.” A woman cannot refuse to receive or hear this information.

On top of these requirements, in 2011 Utah enacted clinic licensing statutes, religious exemptions for providers, and funding and insurance limitations. Utah also has the most convoluted parental consent law of any state:

“[Utah] requires that one of your parents give permission for your abortion, and separately that one parent be told of your decision 72 hours before the abortion takes place. A judge can excuse you from the first requirement (permission), but not the second (that a parent be told). You can be excused from the second requirement if you have only one parent and that parent has abused you, and your doctor reports that abuse to the appropriate authorities. You can also be excused from this requirement if your parent has failed to take responsibility for your care.” 

In new legislation, earlier this month Republican State Senator Margaret Dayton introduced a bill to ban sex-selective abortion, even though the procedure is “extremely rare”; indeed, “virtually non-existent.” In a column in the Salt Lake Tribune, columnist Peg McEntee calls this and bills like it “a solution looking for a problem.”

In failed legislation, in 2010, after a 17-year-old girl paid a man $150 to beat her up to try to induce a miscarriage in her seven-month pregnancy, the legislature considered a fetal homicide bill. Opponents argued it would criminalize miscarriage, but the bill’s House sponsor, Republican Representative Carl Wimmer, said “the language in the bill requiring 'intentional, knowing or reckless' acts by a woman against her unborn child sets a high bar that would allow questions to be asked only in the most glaring of cases.” The bill’s Senate sponsor was Margaret Dayton, our friend from sex-selective abortion banning. Unlike normal fetal homicide laws which apply to third parties, in this case, the bill targeted the pregnant woman herself.

Editor's Note: With 6 days left until the presidential election, PolicyMic's Audrey Farber will be posting a daily update on the state of abortion rights in the U.S., covering legislative challenges to Roe v. Wade in all 50 states. So far, we've gotten updates on: Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana ,Arkansas, Missouri, KentuckyMinnesotaIllinoisIowaMississippiMichigan, Indiana, Alabama, OhioFloridaGeorgiaD.C.South CarolinaNorth CarolinaVirginia and MarylandPennsylvaniaDelawareNew JerseyNew YorkWisconsinConnecticutVermont,  Massachusetts & Rhode IslandMaine & New Hampshire. Check back in every day to keep track!

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