GOP-controlled Arizona House set to ban abortion pills

By BOB CHRISTIE

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona House on Thursday gave initial approval to a measure that would ban the making or prescribing of drugs that would induce abortion, a bill that would eliminate the choice used by half of people who have abortions in the state.

The proposal awaiting a final vote in the Republican-controlled House is one of two major anti-abortion bills that are pending in the Legislative Assembly this year. The other passed the Senate last week. It would ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and awaits House action.

Of the 13,186 abortions performed in Arizona in 2020, only 636 were performed after 15 weeks of pregnancy, according to the latest data from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The medical abortion ban is sponsored by Republican Mesa Rep. Jennifer Parker. She told a Judiciary Committee hearing last week that she understood the issue was deeply partisan and that people were firmly entrenched in their position, but that she was prepared to fight the battle.

The pills accounted for 54% of all abortions in the United States, up from about 44% in 2019, according to a report released Thursday by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. A state report shows slightly lower numbers, with the Department of Health Services indicating that 50.2% of abortions were performed with medication.

“To me, there is no right more important than the right to live,” Parker said. “And there is nothing else without life and the chance to live.”

Democrats and abortion rights advocates noted during the hearing that the ban would prevent people who suffer miscarriages from using drugs to cleanse their bodies of the dead fetus, requiring them to undergo surgery. in place.

“How do you tie doctors’ hands and prevent them from providing medical care that is constitutionally protected pro-life?” said Democratic Representative Melody Hernandez during the hearing. “How to prevent people in need of miscarriage treatment in this form is pro-life?”

There was no debate in the House on Thursday as the chamber rushed to finish work on dozens of bills before a midterm deadline. A vote could take place as early as Thursday afternoon.

Without the ability to access medication that can induce abortion, women would only have invasive surgical abortion as an alternative.

Several states are considering similar legislation to ban drugs used in abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which advocates for reproductive rights. They include Alabama, Illinois, South Dakota and Washington. Wyoming legislation has been filed but not yet introduced.

Many GOP-led states are also considering banning the mailing of abortion pills, which the Food and Drug Administration cleared to be mailed in December. Arizona, Montana, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma passed laws banning the practice last year, though courts have blocked Montana and Oklahoma’s laws from taking effect.

“This is part of the decades-long attack on abortion rights to make it impossible to access care in any way,” Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute said in an email. “Medical abortion is a major method of abortion and is safe and effective, so the effort to ban it is pure politics.”

Arizona already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation, including one that would automatically ban it if the High Court completely overturns Roe v. Wade, the nearly five-decade-old decision that enshrined a nationwide right to abortion. Abortion is legal until a fetus can survive outside the womb, which is usually around 24 weeks.

Republicans hope to put the 15-week ban in place so that it takes effect quickly if the Supreme Court further limits abortion rights but stops short of overturning Roe altogether. The Arizona measure closely mirrors a Mississippi law.

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