Arizona Legislature approves ban on abortions after 15 weeks

The Arizona Legislature has passed the bill that if signed into law will outlaw abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 11:33 AM MST|Updated: Mar. 24, 2022 at 5:38 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/AP) -- The Arizona Legislature has passed the bill that if signed into law will outlaw abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and has no exceptions for rape or incest. It would also ban abortions for families that learn in pregnancy later on that a fetus is not viable.

SB 1164 passed along a party-line vote in the Republican-controlled House. Technically, the bill is unconstitutional but there’s a growing sense the U.S. Supreme Court could soon give states more freedom when it comes to abortion restrictions and the state Legislature wants to be ready if that happens. The bill heads to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk. He hasn’t said what he’ll do but he has signed every anti-abortion bill that has come his way.

Democrats react

Democrats criticized what they called GOP lawmakers’ disconnect between opposing abortion and refusing to provide more funding for the poor and uninsured. Rep. Lorenzo Sierra, a Catholic from Cashion, said he was strongly in favor of abortion rights and called the abortion ban politically motivated and “dangerous to the women in our lives.”

“I wish we had the same fervency for the living as we do for issues like this. That we would offer the loving dignity, education, shelter, nourishment,” Sierra said. “Instead we’re doing this, and we’re getting in between a woman, her doctor and her God.”

Republican backers said little during the floor debate. Minority Democrats have said the measure is unconstitutional and that any ban would disproportionally impact poor and minority women who won’t be able to travel to states without strict abortion laws. But Sen. Nancy Barto, the Republican sponsor of the bill, has said she hopes the high court upholds Mississippi’s law banning abortion after 15 weeks. “The state has an obligation to protect life, and that is what this bill is about,” Barto said during Senate debate last month.

Center for Arizona Policy vs. Planned Parenthood

The measure was pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy, a prominent social conservative group that pushes religious freedom, anti-abortion and parental rights bills that wields great power among Republican lawmakers. “Today is a good day for Arizona children and for Arizona pre-born children. We look forward to having this becoming public policy in Arizona - that’s our hope,” Cathi Herrod, the president of the Center for Arizona Policy, said.

Murphy Bannerman is with Planned Parenthood Arizona. Bannerman said if abortion is restricted in Arizona, it will significantly impact low-income and minority women who can’t afford to go out of state to receive the medical care they need. “If you have the means, you’ll be able to go to another state,” said Bannerman. “But for those who don’t, they will be stuck going through with pregnancy against their will.”

Barto’s bill would make it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion after 15 weeks but would prohibit the prosecution of pregnant people for receiving one. Doctors could face felony charges and lose their license to practice medicine. There is an exception for cases when the mother is at risk of death or serious permanent injury, but not for instances of rape or incest.

Arizona already had some of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws, including one that would automatically outlaw it if the high court fully overturns Roe v. Wade, the nearly five-decade-old ruling that enshrined a nationwide right to abortion. Republicans hope to put the 15-week ban in place so it takes effect quickly if the Supreme Court further limits abortion rights but stops short of fully overturning Roe. The measure closely mirrors the Mississippi law.

Under the current rules, abortion was legal until the point a fetus can survive outside the womb, which is usually around 24 weeks. The Associated Press previously reported that of the 13,186 abortions performed in Arizona in 2020, 636 were after 15 weeks of pregnancy, according to the latest data from the Arizona Department of Health Services. Arizona joins other Republican states in moving to restrict abortion rights.