Last chapter in Arizona abortion reporting legislation

Protesters dressed as handmaid’s from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” sit in protest during debate on an abortion reporting bill. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

PHOENIX — The Senate voted 17-13 on Wednesday to confirm the passage of a controversial abortion reporting bill, closing the last chapter of a tumultuous measure that has undergone numerous changes throughout its time in the Legislature.

SB 1394 was first introduced to the Senate by Sen. Nancy Barto (R-Cave Creek) as a means of stepping up the reporting requirements for abortion providers as well as the women who seek them. The state law regarding abortion reporting currently requires the abortion provider to note the following:

  • the name, address and county of the facility where the abortion is performed
  • The woman’s age, race, marital status and level of education
  • The county and state of residence of the woman
  • The number of prior pregnancies, abortions and spontaneous terminations
  • The gestational age of the unborn child
  • The reason for abortion, including whether the abortion is elective or due to maternal or fetal health considerations
  • The type of procedure and date of when it happened
  • Preexisting medical conditions
  • Any known medical complication
  • Whether or not the abortion was a medical emergency
  • A physician’s statement and the fetus’ weight (if applicable)
  • Whether or not the fetus or embryo was delivered alive during or after the abortion
  • Sworn statements that the fetus or embryo was not observed to be alive after the abortion

Barto’s bill originally replaced the “whether the abortion is elective or due to maternal or fetal health considerations” reason with a set of specific answers. Additionally, the bill adds a set of specific medical complications for abortion providers to record, if they happened. They must also report to the state if they offer “informed consent” materials, and report to how many women the materials were offered to.

This information would then be published yearly by the Department of Health Services, with breakdowns by month, location and specific reason — as well as the number of abortions partially or wholly paid for by the state of Arizona.

As previously reported, the bill underwent a number of changes as it moved through the House. An amendment made by Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (R- Chandler) in the House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee stripped the bill of that specific list of questions, instead replacing them with recording “whether the abortion is elective or due to maternal or fetal health considerations.”

That change blunted many of the issues that critics held with the bill — at least until it made its way to the House floor. That’s where Farnsworth made yet another amendment, adding an entirely different set of questions for abortion providers to ask:

  • If the abortion is elective
  • If the abortion is due to maternal health considerations including one of the following:
    • A premature rupturing of membranes
    • An anatomical abnormality
    • Chorioamnionitis
    • Preeclampsia
    • Other
  • If the abortion is due to fetal health considerations, including:
    • A lethal anomaly
    • A central nervous system anomaly
    • Trisomy 18
    • Trisomy 21
    • Triploidy
    • Other
  • If the pregnancy was the result of a sexual assault, incest, or if the abortion was coerced

The response to this floor amendment was a series of additional amendments by Democrats that ranged from additional provisions for questions on contraceptives or sexual education, crisis pregnancy center reporting, and a repeal of informed consent laws. None of the amendments received the required voice votes to be applied to the original bill.

“This really has nothing to do with healthcare,” Farnsworth said. “Having access to contraceptives is not a healthcare issue.”

With opinions on the issue split along party lines, the failure of the Democrat amendments comes as no surprise. Despite that, opposition to the original bill resulted in back-and-forth debates on the need for this reporting.

“We’re failing to really have a thoughtful discussion on contraception,” Rep. Isela Blanc (D-Tempe) said. “How committed are we to ensuring that women are making good choices for their health and their bodies?”

As the debate dragged on, tempers flared over comments made by Rep. Tony Navarrete (D-Phoenix) against the bill. He claimed that the bill was politically motivated, which provoked a point of order from Majority Leader John Allen (R-Cave Creek) invoking Rule 19 of the Rules of the Arizona House of Representatives. The rule covers impermissible debates, under which Allen argued Navarrete was impugning the bill and Farnsworth.

Revising his statements, Navarrete tried again, to another round of points of order under the same rule.

“This bill is specifically going after women,” Navarrete said.

After a lengthy pause and informal debate over the rules, Speaker J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) asked for everyone to reread their rule books and conform to the proper rules of debate. Navarrete was cut off and asked to sit. With tensions flaring, the House voted 35-22 to pass the bill. However, since it underwent significant changes from the Senate version, it had to go back to the Senate floor to be found in concurrence.

The affirmative vote on concurrence means the bill now goes to Gov. Doug Ducey to be signed into law — which will take effect after Dec. 31.

 

Erik Kolsrud is the Don Bolles Fellow covering the Legislature for Arizona Sonora News, a service provided by the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach him at ekolsrud@email.arizona.edu.

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