A new abortion law takes effect this week making it illegal to abort a fetus at 20 weeks gestation or later for any reason other than a medical emergency for the mother.
Under House Bill 2036, even likely fatal fetal anomalies are not a permissible justification for abortion. The law requires doctors to share resources with families facing the devastation of carrying a child with major defects. Two organizations, MISS Foundation and Embrace, assist families in Arizona in coping with the loss of a newborn. Those facing the loss of a child, or potential loss of a newborn, can go to www.missfoundation.org or www.azembrace.org.
The law holds doctors accountable for the determination of the gestational age, stating they must obtain a complete history, perform examinations and obtain ultrasound imagery in making an accurate diagnosis with respect to gestational age. Twenty weeks gestation is counted from the woman’s last menstrual period.
The law specifies that except in a medical emergency, a person must not knowingly perform, induce or attempt to perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman if the probable gestation age of the unborn child has been determined to be at least 20 weeks. A full-term pregnancy is considered 38 to 40 weeks.
The law states that a person who knowingly violates this section commits a Class 1 misdemeanor and a physician who knowingly violates this section commits an act of unprofessional conduct and is subject to license suspension or revocation.
The law also further regulates the medication-induced abortions in Arizona. In September 2000, the FDA approved the abortion pill RU-486, now known as mifepristone, for use as an abortion-inducing drug. RU-486 is approved for use through the first seven weeks of pregnancy. RU-486 acts by halting the growth of the uterine lining. Two days later, the woman takes misoprostol, which has the side effect of starting uterine contractions, in order to expel the fetus.
Arizona law now requires that a physician is involved in caring for patients both before and after an abortion, including a medication abortion. Arizona law also prohibits physician assistants or nurse practitioners from prescribing abortion medication and prohibits the use of “telemedicine” to administer abortion medication.
The bill was signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer and takes effect Aug. 2, 2012.