New Pro-life laws protect women

August 10, 2009 by  

The high point for me this session was Governor Brewer’s signature on the most significant pro-life legislation in Arizona history after years of seeing these efforts pass the legislature year after year only to meet the former governor’s veto stamp. 

After speaking at the Arizona Women Lawyers Association last week on the Abortion Consent Act, it is clear there are questions about what these changes will mean – and how they will benefit women, parents and medical professionals: 

First – we passed a state ban on Partial-Birth Abortions.  This is not a pro-life vs. pro-choice issue.  PBA blurs the lines between abortion and the killing of a partially born child mere inches away from birth.

In the words of the U.S. Supreme Court, banning PBA except in cases where the life of the mother is at risk, “expresses repect for the dignity of human life.”  With an enforceable state law in place we are ensuring that such gruesome treatment of a human being will never happen again in Arizona.

Second – the Abortion Consent Act will ensure women seeking abortions have all the information they need to make a truly informed choice – something most of us take for granted before considering any other invasive medical procedure.   Details like privacy – making sure physicians meet privately with the woman to discuss the abortion rather than in groups as was testified in committee.

Details like the risks associated with abortion.  Risks of infertility, severe depression or a punctured uterus.

And – Time.  At least 24 hours to consider the decision, alternatives, or even to check the physician’s credentials with the Medical Board.   Time – so that a woman cannot be unduly pressured into having an abortion by someone who may not her best interests in mind.

Abortion is one of the only, if not the only, procedure where one can make a call, set an appointment, get the diagnosis and procedure all in one visit.  Women deserve more respect than that.  Now they will get it.

With more information available to them about alternatives and risks, women are much more likely to choose adoption or to carry their unborn child to term than choose abortion.  But they still can if they so choose.  This law will not prohibit a woman from obtaining an abortion in any way. 

And contrary to what opponents loudly claimed, the waiting period, parental and informed consent provisions do not apply to a woman’s acquisition of birth control or emergency contraception.

Parental Consent will actually mean something now that the ACA has been passed.  No longer will a boyfriend pretending to be a parent be able to give “consent” to a minor with an e-mail.   A notarized signature is now required – to guarantee a parent’s right to guide their child through, arguably, the most important health decision of her life.

Pharmacists and other medical professionals’ conscience rights will be better protected under the ACA, too.  They will no longer be forced to choose between keeping their job and participating in an abortion. 

Rights of conscience laws have been in place since shortly after Roe v. Wade was passed, but have not been updated to include other means of abortion that have become available through emergency contraception and other abortion medication. 

Respecting rights of conscience will not stop anyone from getting drugs and won’t impact which drugs are and are not available.

Finally, women will be assured that only qualified physicians will be performing surgical abortions in Arizona now that the statute has been clarified.  Current law did not authorize others to perform abortions, but it was discovered in June of this year that a quarter of all abortions provided by the largest abortion provider in Arizona were being performed by nurse practitioners. 

Obviously the law needed clarification.  Why? 

Doctors and nurses alike testified that while a NP may be trained to perform abortions, if something goes wrong, a doctor is needed – not a nurse.  Only trained gynecologists are able to handle the complications that arise from abortion procedures.

41 states have laws allowing only physicians to perform abortions.

Every provision in the Abortion Consent Act makes sense, addresses real world problems, and is supported by a majority of Americans. 

73% support parental consent before a minor can receive an abortion (Dec. 2008 Harris poll).

88% support women knowing the risks and alternatives of abortion beforehand (Dec. 2008 Harris poll).

79% believe healthcare workers should not be forced to perform an abortion if it conflicts with their personal or religious beliefs (July 2009 Marist poll).   Even 69% of strong pro-choice supporters share this belief.

Whether one approves or disapproves of abortion, the Abortion Consent Act will help ensure women seeking abortions are better protected and their rights to accurate and respected in the process.

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