By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX – Discarding questions about legality and religion, a House panel voted Wednesday in favor of parties to imprison doctors who terminate a pregnancy just because the fetus has a genetic defect.
SB 1457 has been promoted by at least some of its supporters because it prevents women from being able to receive pills for chemical abortions by mail, without first seeing a doctor and doing a medical examination.
Dr. Lance Holeman. who practices obstetrics and gynecology, told members of the House Judiciary Committee that about 2% of pregnancies are ectopic, meaning the fertilized egg has settled somewhere outside the uterus. He said a woman aiming to terminate such a pregnancy without first receiving a medical examination would not know that fact.
More specifically, Holeman said she would not only find the drugs ineffective, but could actually risk her own life.
But that language is actually just a small part of the legislation, which is designed to give equal rights to an “unborn child” and try to protect it in the name of preventing discrimination. And it would do so by sending doctors to prison for at least 2 1/2 years. due to abortion knowing that the reason the woman terminates the pregnancy is due to a genetic abnormality.
It would also give the woman’s husband or even the woman’s parents the right to sue on behalf of the unborn child.
The 6-4 vote came even after Holeman, who said he was not aborting, urged lawmakers to remove those provisions.
“I certainly don’t favor criminalizing the doctor-patient relationship,” he told them.
Even MP Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, has expressed concern about new criminal penalties. But that did not stop him from maintaining the remedy.
If he had opposed it, SB 1457 would have died by a 5-5 tie vote.
The bill was created by the Center for Arizona Policy, which has been at the forefront of multiple measures to ban or limit a woman’s ability to terminate a pregnancy. It was carried by Senator Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix.
“What we’re trying to do is protect those most vulnerable in the womb,” she said.
“And now, it’s about the disabled,” Bart continued. “They are chosen and targeted.”
But Rep. Melody Hernandez, D-Phoenix, said it’s not that simple. It begins, she said, with the means of adopting the “one specific religious point of view” into law.
SB 1457 has a verb to say that “an unborn child at every stage of development has all the rights, privileges and immunities available to other persons, citizens and residents of this state.”
“It’s about the idea when life starts,” Hernandez said. “Different religions have different ideas about when life begins and different ideas about how we should approach those discussions.”
Deputy Jacqueline Parker, R-Mesa, disagreed.
“It’s not really a religious thing,” she said.
“It’s a scientific thing,” Parker continued. “And we have the right to bring a science that sustains when life begins, even if it’s inconvenient for some agendas.”
Then there are the legal issues.
In 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, asserted a woman’s right to abort a child, at least before life expectancy. This has been asserted several times, although the judges have allowed states to impose regulations, but generally only those intended to protect maternal health.
Denise Burke, a lawyer for the Alliance for the Defense of Freedom, a Christian-based law firm that opposes abortion, said four other states already have laws similar to SB 1457.
She acknowledged, however, that none of these had reached the nation’s high court. And Burke told lawmakers that it may take more states to enact such laws to get the matter before the judges.
That bothered Deputy Diego Rodriguez, D-Phoenix.
“As a lawyer and legislator, I don’t subscribe to the tactic of delivering bills simply to prosecute them,” he said.
CAP President Cathi Herrod pointed out that Arizona already has a similar law on books: a 2011 statute that prohibits abortion based on the child’s race or gender.
That was in fact challenged in federal court. But the case was dismissed because a judge ruled that the prosecuting organizations – the National Asia Pacific Women’s Forum and the U.S. Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the NAACP – had no legal right to bring to the case absent evidence that any specific woman had . abortion was refused.
A Planned Parenthood spokeswoman said her organization will not abort any woman who tells them she is seeking the procedure because of gender or race.
Hernandez reacted angrily to the whole concept that men who govern the committee “can legislate what we decide to do with our bodies.”
“Why do we allow misogynistic bills to come through this legislature?” She asked.
“This is my body, my choice, just as everyone wants to talk about whether they want to wear a mask,” Hernandez said. “This is my choice to decide what to do with my medical care.”
The measure, which released the Senate earlier this month on a 16-14 party vote, now needs approval from the full House.