Arizona Senate advances 15-week abortion ban, expected to pass in House, signed by Gov. Ducey

Like other states, Arizona is preparing for the much anticipated Supreme Court ruling that could change the legal parameters of abortion across the country.

Updated: February 17, 2022 - 6:04am

The Arizona Senate has voted in favor of outlawing an abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, taking a major step getting such a ban enacted into law ahead of the much anticipated Supreme Court decision that change the application of the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion case in states across the nation.

The Arizona body is controlled by Republicans, and the vote came over the objections of minority Democrats who argued that the ban is unconstitutional and will disproportionately harm minority women.

The bill was modeled after the Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks, which the high court is now weighing.

"The state has an obligation to protect life, and that is what this bill is about," Nancy Barto, the Republican sponsor of the bill, said Tuesday amid the vote. "A 15-week-old baby in the womb has a fully formed nose, lips, eyelids, they suck their thumbs. They feel pain. That’s what this bill is about. ... I believe our constitution stands clearly for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and the first part of that is life."

Arizona already is home to some of the nation's most stringent abortion laws, including one that, if Roe is overturned, would automatically ban the procedure in the state. 

High court observers seem to generally think the justices will rules in a way that lets each state decide on abortion law, if not completely overturning Roe, which gives women the right to an about without excessive government restrictions and that has set precedent for federal law for nearly six decades. 

The Arizona bill will now move on to the state House, in which a Republican majority often backs pro-life measures.

Should the body pass the bill in both chambers, it will go to GOP Gov. Doug Ducey, who has signed each of the abortion restriction bills that have reached his desk during the past seven legislative sessions.

Under Barto's bill, doctors would be committing a crime if they performed an abortion after 15 weeks, but the woman receiving the abortion would not be prosecuted.

Doctors would be subject to felony charges and the loss of their licenses to practice medicine. There is a carve out in the bill for cases in which the mother is at risk of death or serious permanent injury, though there is no exception for instances of rape or incest. 

The restrictions outlined in the Arizona bill are not as severe as those in the Texas law that passed and took effect in 2021. That measure allows private citizens to file lawsuits against those they suspect have assisted in the performance of an illegal abortion after the six-week mark in a pregnancy, helping avoid court challenges.

 A more similar bill to the Texas measure was introduced in Arizona, but has failed to move through the legislature.

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