Arizona Legislature tightens rules in born-alive abortions

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The state Legislature passed a controversial abortion bill on Wednesday. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The state Legislature passed a controversial abortion bill on Wednesday. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

The Republican-controlled Arizona Legislature on Wednesday approved a measure requiring doctors who perform abortions to try to revive fetuses if they show any sign of life and to have needed life-saving equipment on hand.

The action is the latest in a yearslong string of anti-abortion measures pushed through the Legislature. It now heads to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who has repeatedly said he will sign any abortion legislation that hits his desk.

Supporters say the bill would ensure babies who survive abortions are given life-saving care. Opponents say the measure would cause futile pain to infants born too early to survive.

The new proposal tightens and expands existing Arizona law requiring life-savings measures. It boosts training and equipment requirements and increases reporting requirements and adds new definitions of what signs of life require action.

The Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, says 35 states and the U.S. Congress have enacted such laws, many dating from the 1970s.

But none go as far as Arizona's proposed law, said Elizabeth Nash, Guttmacher's senior state issues manager.

The Senate gave final approval with one Democrat joining all the Republicans. The House approved the ban with no Democratic support on the same day the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress released a video from October 2014 secretly recorded by activist David Daleiden showing an Arizona doctor who performs abortions discussing procedures for delivering intact fetuses.

[READ MORE: House approves intervention in abortion with signs of life]

The Center for Arizona Policy, an anti-abortion group that wields considerable power at the state Legislature, said the video proved the need to the new legislation.

Pro-abortion rights groups said the timing of the video's release was designed to sway lawmakers.

At one point in the footage, after Daleiden asks someone he identifies as Dr. DeShawn Taylor about born-alive abortion cases and identifying signs of life, Taylor describes dealing with those situations.

"I mean the key is, you need to pay attention to who's in the room, right?" Taylor said. "Because the thing is the law states that you're not supposed to do any maneuvers after the fact to try to cause demise so it's really tricky."

Taylor did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

Vicki Saporta, president of the pro-abortion rights group the National Abortion Federation, noted the release of Daleiden's new video came not only on the morning of the Arizona abortion law vote but just a day after he was indicted in California on 15 felony counts related to other surreptitiously recorded videos of abortion providers. His attorney said Daleiden would be vindicated.

"It's no coincidence that CMP provides a smear video about an Arizona abortion provider the same day that SB1367 was being debated," Saporta said. "And since Daleiden also coordinates with other anti-abortion groups and anti-choice politicians, it's not surprising that the Center for Arizona Policy put out an immediate release trying to use the videotape as a reason to pass SB1367."

Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod said the video doctors who perform abortions have been able to "skirt the weak law for far too long."

"When a baby is born alive it is no longer an abortion, it is a live birth," Herrod said in a statement. "Doctors should treat the child with the same humane care and concern they would any premature baby."

Senate Bill 1367 requires doctors to perform life-saving measures if a fetus shows any sign of life. It requires clinics that perform abortions at 20 weeks or more to have available equipment on hand to care for a fetus delivered alive. It also requires enhanced reporting.

During earlier committee testimony, a neonatologist testified that the current standard of care is not to resuscitate fetuses delivered prior to 22 weeks nationwide.

"It's unethical and against the physician's oath to do no harm to provide anything more invasive or extensive than comfort measures alone," Dr. Peter Stevenson said.

The bill was amended in the House Wednesday to provide an exemption for fetuses that are diagnosed with a "lethal fetal condition." Doctors would still be required to report those cases.

House Democrats united against the measure, citing testimony from doctors and people who have personally dealt with born alive cases. They said the decision should be left to families and those involved in the situation.

Rep. Ken Clark, D-Phoenix, said doctors will be forced to "go through this horrendous process" of trying to revive a fetus that has no hope of survival.

But Rep. Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley, said the undercover video showing Taylor saying "Who's in the room" shows the need for the new law.

"Why does it matter who is in the room if you are following the law ... this is why we need SB1367 because current law isn't enough to ensure doctors like DeShawn Taylor are doing all they can to save babies who survive - survive abortions," Syms said.

© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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