Arizona Introduces a 15 weeks Abortion Ban Law

Arizona’s Governor, Doug Ducey, has approved a bill that will prevent abortion providers from carrying the procedure if the pregnancy is over 15 weeks. The 15-week abortion ban is the most recent law that limits abortion rights in Arizona. In spite of the opposition by Democrats, the Republican lawmakers were able to see it through the house in March.

Existing laws on the termination of pregnancy had before permitted the procedure until viability, applying to pregnancies under 22 weeks. The new bill turned law upsets this and will outlaw the termination of pregnancies above 15 weeks. 

Governor Ducey is known to sign all anti-abortion bills during his tenure into law. The Governor mentioned in a letter about the signing of the SB 1164 bill that there is “immeasurable value in every life – including preborn life”. Hence, the new legislation guarantees the protection of lives according to the Governor. However, critics have expressed concerns that many Arizona residents are against the 15-week abortion ban, and it undermines their constitutional rights. There are also concerns that the law does not exclude people affected by rape or incest. The exception to the ban applies to only medical emergency cases that threaten the life of the pregnant person or may cause permanent damage to their body system.

A 2020 Arizona abortion report from the Department of Health Services revealed that out of 13,186 abortions carried out that year, 636 abortions were on pregnancies of above 15 weeks. To put it into perspective, physicians would have denied 636 persons from having an abortion if the 15-weeks abortion ban law preceded 2020. While it is relatively small to the total abortions done, advocates have pointed out that many of these pregnant individuals are minors and may experience health complications if the procedure is not accessible.

Physicians That Violate The Law Can Go To Jail

Physicians that violate the abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy will face a class 6 felony charge. If found culpable, it could mean an incarceration sentence between four months to five years, except if downgraded to a misdemeanor. The violation could also cost physicians their license to practice medicine in Arizona and a hefty fine.

For exempted cases in which the law allows the abortion of fewer than 15 weeks old pregnancies, the physician have to follow a bureaucratic protocol before performing the procedure. Within 15 days after the abortion, the physician must submit a report to the DHS with the following contained:

  • The complete date that the physician performed the abortion.
  • Details of the medical procedure used in the abortion.
  • The number of weeks that the pregnancy has existed.
  • The method used by the physician to determine the period of the pregnancy.
  • A statement disclosing that the abortion is a medical emergency.
  • Medical proof backing up the claims that the procedure occurred due to a medical emergency.
  • Potential health consequences of the procedure done.
  • The physician’s signature acts as an assurance (under oath) that the information in the report is factual to the best of the physician’s knowledge.

Falsifying a report to perform an abortion can result in the state suspending or revoking the provider’s license. The court can also include a fine of up to $10,000.

While the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Alexis McGill Johnson, indicated in a statement that medical professionals in Arizona are against the ban, the penalties do not leave them many options but to abide by it.

On a lighter term, the law will not prosecute the pregnant person for violating the ban. 

Arizona Has More Restrictive Policies on Abortion

Although abortions are not outrightly illegal in Arizona, the state has some other restrictive laws that discourage the procedure. In essence, abortion is legal until viability. The latest development of the 15-week abortion ban is likely to take effect by October if upheld by the state judiciary.

Some other abortion restrictions in Arizona include:

  • Mandatory counseling that may discourage the person from seeing through the abortion. After the counseling, the pregnant person must wait 24 hours before an abortion can be done.
  • The state Affordable Care Act only offers health plans that cover abortion in medical emergency cases where the pregnancy poses a life threat to the person.
  •  There is a prohibition on using telemedicine to administer abortion medication.
  • Abortion is outlawed on the grounds that the child has a survivable genetic abnormality. 
  • The insurance of public employees will only cover abortions if the situation is life-threatening or can cause permanent damage to the health.
  •  Abortions are only available after viability, except the pregnancy can lead to death or jeopardizes the person’s health.
  • The state has bureaucratic and unnecessary policies that its abortion clinics must follow.
  • A mandatory ultrasound must be done at least 24 hours before the abortion procedure, and the facility must allow the patient to see visuals of the result.
  • Anyone below 18 cannot get an abortion except with the consent of a parent or legal guardian.

There are speculations that Arizona can make abortion completely illegal in the long term. These speculations come in light of the Supreme Court vote to overturn the decision in the revolutionary Roe v. Wade that set a precedence for abortion rights. However, Arizona does not have a trigger law that will automatically make abortion illegal due to the recent decision on abortion rights at the federal level. Across the U.S, Florida, Arizona, and Mississippi are the states with a law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.