(USA Today) PHOENIX – The Arizona House has given final legislative approval to a bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and make numerous other changes to abortion regulations.
House Bill 2036 now goes to the governor. Gov. Jan Brewer has five days to sign it into law, veto it or do nothing and allow it to become law. If it becomes law, it would go into effect this summer. The Arizona Senate approved the legislation last month.
In 2010, Nebraska was the first to ban abortions after 20 weeks based on the theory of fetal pain. Last year, Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas and Oklahoma passed similar laws. This year, in addition to Arizona, Michigan and Georgia are considering bans.
The Arizona vote was emotional, and not along party lines. Rep. Catherine Miranda, a Democrat, was among those who voted for the bill, as was Rep. Michelle Ugenti, a Republican. But Rep. Cecil Ash, another Republican, voted against the bill.
Supporters said the bill protects women and unborn children, who at this gestational age may feel pain. Opponents said it strips women and their doctors of the ability to decide how to handle situations of fetal abnormalities that are often discovered later in pregnancy.
Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, said her vote for the bill came down to one question.
"Is the baby inside a woman's body a human?" Lesko asked. "My answer, I believe, is yes. It is unacceptable to end the life of a human."
Ash called the bill bad policy. He said women faced with a fetal abnormality at 20 weeks need time to make their own decisions.
"This bill crosses the line from setting policy to practicing medicine," said Ash, who said he supports efforts such as establishing waiting times, informed consent and full disclosure for women seeking abortions.
"Most women who have reached the 20th week or fifth month of pregnancy have already made the decision in favor of life."
The bill would make numerous changes to abortion laws, including banning abortions after 20 weeks except in a "medical emergency," allowing doctors to prescribe medication abortion pills only through the seventh week of pregnancy and requiring clinics to perform an ultrasound 24 hours before an abortion instead of the current requirement of an hour before.
It also would set up several new requirements: Clinics must post signs saying it is against the law to coerce a woman into having an abortion, physicians must provide additional information about health risks, and the state must create a website with abortion health risks, contact information for adoption agencies and photos or drawings of developing fetuses.
Current law allows abortions up until the point of viability, when a fetus could reasonably survive on its own outside the womb. That's considered by many medical experts and abortion clinics to be from 22 to 24 weeks. The law allows abortions beyond that to protect the "life or health of the woman" but doesn't define health.
Ugenti, who described herself as "very, very pro-life," voted against the bill. She said her daughter was diagnosed with a birth defect diagnosed at 20 weeks. They chose to have the baby and she said she is doing well now.
"I think of people diagnosed with more devastating illnesses," she said. "In their darkest hour, in their moment of complete despair, is that where we should be telling families and women and husbands what to do?"
Rep. Steve Montenegro, R-Avondale, said yes.
"I can't fathom anybody protecting murder after 20 weeks," he said.