Life before conception: Arizona anti-abortion law defies science
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed her name to a controversial bill on Thursday, authorizing the state to outlaw abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. According to the legislation, however, the state considers the starting point of the life of a fetus to begin on the first day of the mother’s last menstrual period, essentially establishing life to begin before scientifically possible.
Weirded out? Governor Brewer says anyone with brains could get behind her reasoning in bringing pen to paper when it came to signing the bill into law.
"This legislation is consistent with my strong track record of supporting common sense measures to protect the health of women and safeguard our most vulnerable population – the unborn," Brewer insists in a statement that accompanied her signing the Women’s Health and Safety Act on Thursday, April 12.
"Knowing that abortions become riskier the later they are performed in pregnancy, it only makes sense to prohibit these procedures past 20 weeks,” says Brewer, who adds that the bill "strengthens Arizona's laws protecting the health and safety of women, and recognizes the precious life of the preborn baby."
Once a reader of the law looks into the fine print though, that 20-week mark doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. With officials now considering the gestational age of the fetus to begin on the first day of the last period, abortions can actually be banned as early as 18 weeks after conception. Lawmakers insist that complications can occur for both the mother and child if abortions are administered later than that, but the bulk of the controversy coming from Brewer’ signing isn’t about the medical consequences. Understandably, many are mad about the government getting involved between the legs and love life of everyone in Arizona.
The law “disregards women’s health in a way I’ve never seen before,” the Center for Reproductive Rights’ Jordan Goldberg explains in protest. “The women of Arizona can’t access medical treatment that other women can.”
“The point is to make it so difficult to provide abortions that no one will do it,” Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute tells The Daily Beast of the law. “Arizona likes to thumb their nose at women. They take that as a badge of honor.”
After the 20-week mark, women will have to go out of state if they want to have an abortion. They still, of course, can stay in Arizona to receive testing to determine the health of the unborn child that might not be made available any earlier in the pregnancy. As a result, Center for Reproductive Rights President Nancy Northrup says women "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."
Supports of the bill say it’s a step in the right direction towards protecting women, even if it means eliminating their right to choose after a certain point. Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy calls the signing a “momentous victory,” adding "Abortion not only ends the life of a preborn child, but it also seriously endangers the health and safety of women."
“Considering that it’s anti-choice nuts we’re talking about, it’s safe to assume that they’d simply prefer a situation where all women of reproductive age are considered to be pregnant, on the grounds that they could be two weeks from now,” RH Reality Check’s Amanda Marcotte responded earlier this month before Brewer inked her name to the act. “Better safe than sorry, especially if that mentality means you get to exert maximum control over the bodies of women of reproductive age.”
Under the legislation, the state will be subjecting everyone to new anti-abortion initiatives, as well. The law also includes a provision that makes it mandatory that the state establish a website that publishes images of fetuses at varying stages of development.