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Arizona Abortion Laws

Until recently, Arizona law had few restrictions on abortion. In fact, Arizona’s favorite son, republican Sen. Barry Goldwater, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1964, was a vocal supporter of abortion rights. Conservative politics prior to the 1980’s was mostly libertarian, and so, it was felt that restrictions on abortion were an encroachment on personal privacy and individual liberties. In recent years Arizona politics has shifted from libertarianism to religious conservatism which has included numerous restrictions on abortion.
The first of the Arizona Abortion Law changes was a requirement that minors obtain the consent on one of their parents before having an abortion which passed on 1996. The abortion law also includes the option of a minor obtaining a “judicial bypass” by appearing before a judge. If the bypass is granted, the minor may have an abortion without the consent of a parent. In 2002 the Arizona legislature passed a bill that banned physician assistants from performing surgical abortions.

Democrat Janet Napolitano was the governor of Arizona from 2003 to 2009. During her tenure as governor, she vetoed many Arizona abortion law restrictions passed by the state legislature. In 2009, however, president Obama chose Ms. Napolitano to head the Department of Homeland Security. With her departure from Arizona, Janet Brewer became governor. Under Brewer, abortion restrictions which had been vetoed by Gov. Napolitano became law.

In 2009 Gov. Brewer signed into law a requirement that women seeking an abortion must meet with a doctor, in person, at least 24 hours prior to beginning any part of an abortion and that the doctor must give the patient information mandated by the state. This information may not be given by telephone or video conference meaning that a person in Flagstaff or Yuma, for example, must drive to Phoenix once to meet with the doctor and a second time for her procedure or stay overnight in Phoenix. For many women this means missing extra days of work, spending more on gas or paying for a hotel. For some, this may have a significant financial impact. The same abortion law in Arizona also requires that parental consent for a minor’s abortion must be notarized.

In 2011 more restrictions went into effect. These included requiring women get an ultrasound before an abortion; requiring a doctor to allow the woman to see the ultrasound and hear the fetus’ heartbeat; banning telemedicine abortions; prohibiting physician assistants from prescribing medication abortions; and prohibiting abortions based on the baby’s race or sex.

In 2012 the state passed a law that banned all abortions after 20 weeks. Many women who have abortions after 20 weeks have a pregnancy that was planned and desired, but have found that their baby has a severe abnormality. This ban was in clear violation of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade that made abortion available throughout the United States. The law was challenged in Federal Court in a case called Isaacson v Horne. The court overturned this Arizona Abortion law and abortion remains available up to 24 weeks in Arizona.

In 2012 the state also passed a law that banned medication abortion by any protocol other than the FDA approved one. While that may, at first glance, seem reasonable, it is important to understand that many, if not most, medications are used in ways that differ from the way they were originally approved by the FDA. The protocol used by nearly all abortion providers in America uses a much lower dose of medications and fewer visits to the clinic. Many research studies have shown this protocol to be a better alternative to the original protocol. This abortion law has also been challenged and is currently blocked by the courts pending a trial.

This year another abortion law in Arizona affecting medication abortion was passed. This law requires an abortion provider to inform the patient that “a medication abortion might be reversible but that time is of the essence.” The law requires that all abortion patients be told this even if they have not chosen a medication abortion. This law is currently blocked by the Federal Court pending the outcome a suit challenging the law.

For more information on Arizona abortion law, or if you are seeking an abortion, please contact our office for assistance.