Senate panel favors new abortion requirements
Doctors will have to ask the woman why before the procedure
PHOENIX — Women who want an abortion would have to tell state health officials exactly why under the terms of legislation approved Wednesday by a Senate panel.
On a party-line vote, members of the Health and Human Services Committee approved adding a series of new requirements for abortion providers in Arizona, who already are required by law to inform women about the nature of the procedure.
If the new, proposed requirements became law, abortion providers would also be required to report their own medical specialty, the type of facility where they perform abortions, whether anesthesia was administered to the mother or the fetus and the numbers of women they serve.
Doctors also would be required to detail how many of their patients have asked to hear the fetus’ heartbeat, something doctors already have to offer to allow under current law.
But the heart of SB 1394 seeks to expand existing law, which now requires only that the facility ask an open-ended question of why the woman wants an abortion, whether it is elective or for reasons of maternal or fetal health.
Under the new proposal, health care providers would have to run through a checklist of possible reasons with the patient, ranging from economic reasons and relationship issues to the woman not wanting children at this time.
Cathi Herrod, president of the anti-abortion Center for Arizona Policy, who helped craft the legislation, said the measure is designed to help women by having the health department gather more information.
“It’s data that then all sides in the abortion issue would know how to better serve the needs of women,’’ she told lawmakers.
Herrod said that in Minnesota, which has a similar law, the top reason reported was that the woman did not want children at this time, followed by economic reasons.
“So when you get that kind of data, for example, those who are trying to meet the needs of women would know that, if it’s economic reasons, is there a way of helping that woman economically, so that she could carry a child to term,’’ Herrod said. “If it’s because the woman does not want children at this time, then maybe there’s a way to provide more services about adoption.’’
Herrod acknowledged that no reason cited by an individual woman in such an interview could be used to specifically get her those services. That’s because the law requires that the information be reported to the state without identifying information on a patient.
But Herrod argued that the data might enable the state — or a private organization — to decide what new or expanded services to make available.
Foes of the legislation disputed the claim that the additional requirements were designed to help women.
“I don’t really buy the arguments that this is about furthering women’s health care and caring about women,’’ said Sen. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix. “It’s about shaming them and shaming the health care providers who care for them.
Hobbs said if proponents were interested in helping women — and avoiding abortion — they would do more to ensure that there are adequate family planning services to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Instead, Hobbs said, the reverse appears to be true.
“The very organizations that do that work are vilified by bills like this and other bills that work to restrict women’s access to health care,’’ she said, making a reference to perennial criticism of Planned Parenthood by abortion foes.
Hobbs also said that no one testifying in support of the additional requirements was a health care professional.
Sen. David Bradley, D-Tucson, was more blunt.
“The reasoning behind this is evident to a fifth grader,’’ he said.
“It’s an attempt to shame people into changing their mind and to put such a burden on the (abortion) providers that the providers will be reluctant to provide the services,’’ Bradley explained after the hearing. He said it would be preferable to make preventing unplanned pregnancies the goal of the state.
But Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, who worked with Herrod to draft the bill, said she does not understand why any doctor or abortion provider would oppose the additional requirements.
“I think caring professionals that deal with women in a crisis pregnancy would do all they could to want to get to the bottom of what is this woman going through and why is she here and how can I help,’’ Barto said.
The 5-2 vote sends the measure to the full Senate.