Arizona Sets Dangerous New Standard for Hostility to Women, Doctors, and Reproductive Rights

Newly-signed omnibus legislation enacts most extreme abortion ban in U.S., other severe restrictions

(PRESS RELEASE) Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law the country’s most extreme anti-reproductive rights law of its kind—banning abortion procedures before the time most women undergo critical prenatal testing to evaluate their own health and the health of their pregnancy. The law also severely restricts a safe alternative to surgical abortion and increases to 24 hours the time women must wait after undergoing a mandatory ultrasound before they may terminate their pregnancies.
 
The omnibus law—which in large part could take effect as early as July—includes only one extremely narrow exception for dire medical emergencies to its abortion ban. The law does not include any protection for women’s lives, or their physical and mental health, in any other circumstance. The law also makes zero exceptions for women carrying fetuses with even the most severe abnormalities.
 
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO for the Center for Reproductive Rights:
 
“To call this an extreme assault on reproductive rights would be a massive understatement. In its cruelty and its callous disregard for women’s lives, it is downright appalling.
 
“Women facing life-threatening pregnancy complications will be forced to wait until they are bleeding to death before doctors are able to provide the emergency care they need.
 
“Some women at risk of grave complications will be forced to decide whether to proceed with their pregnancies in the dark, before they have all the information they need to arrive at their choices.”
 
The measure will ban abortions in Arizona at 20 weeks after “the first day of the last menstrual period of the pregnant woman,” also known as LMP—thus prohibiting abortion 18 weeks after fertilization. This is the precise time the vast majority of women undergo a comprehensive scan that uncovers most major abnormalities that pose risks to the health of women and the fetuses they are carrying.
 
For example, this routine scan has resulted in some women receiving a diagnosis that their fetus has lethal skeletal dysplasia, a severe bone growth disorder which causes many newborns to die immediately after birth. Other women have learned of open neural tube defects for the fetus, a disorder that could cause infants to be born blind, deaf, unconscious, and die within a few hours or days after birth.
 
“Every pregnant woman’s circumstances are different,” said Northup. “A woman facing devastating complications in her pregnancy must have every medical option available to her. That is why the Supreme Court has said repeatedly that restrictions on abortion must have an exception for women’s life and physical and mental health.”
 
Arizona’s legislature has considered a number of extreme bills assaulting women’s reproductive rights, including a measure that would have allowed employees to limit insurance coverage of birth control to only non-contraceptive use, and even allow those bosses to fire women found to be using contraceptives to prevent pregnancy.