House Republicans adding new questions to abortion bill
PHOENIX (AP) — Republicans who control the Arizona House are poised to require abortion clinics to ask women if they are victims of sex assault, incest or sex trafficking and provide the patient with ways to contact law enforcement.
The amendment to an existing abortion regulation bill is expected to be offered on the House floor Monday. The move comes after a committee had stripped out provisions from the proposal requiring doctors to ask women specifically why they were seeking an abortion.
Republican Rep. Eddie Farnsworth said Thursday he pulled that language from the proposal because he believed it had no connection to the medical procedure. He said the new requirements were designed to help women who may be victims of abuse.
“We’re trying to create a mechanism to identify and give women the opportunity to tell somebody in private that they are being coerced, that this is the result of an illegal act,” Farnsworth said. “So that’s the intent of the amendment.”
Democrats called the new requirements intrusive, unneeded and designed to shame women.
“A bill that started off as intrusive to women managed to get even worse,” Democratic Rep. Athena Salman said Thursday. “If this amendment passes, it will further interfere with the relationship between a woman and her doctor. Legislation like this serves no public health purpose, but instead stigmatizes women seeking abortion and the providers who serve them.”
The proposal comes from Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, a powerful social conservative group that backs anti-abortion legislation every session as wells a religious freedom and school choice bills.
“This is to help women and to try to ensure that those who are preying on women are not able to do so, they would be able to be apprehended by law enforcement if the woman so chose,” Herrod said. “But it is totally up to the woman whether she reveals any reason for the abortion at all.”
Patients seeking an abortion would be asked privately if they are being coerced into seeking an abortion or are victims of sex trafficking, incest, sexual assault or domestic violence. Women could choose not to answer.
Republicans who control both chambers of the Legislature pass anti-abortion bills each session. Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has routinely signed them when they reach his desk, even those on shaky Constitutional grounds. In 2016, he was unapologetic after signing a bill he would soon have to repeal because it faced long odds in the courts.
“In such a case, I will always stand with those advocating life,” Ducey wrote then in a signing statement.
The underlying legislation set for debate Monday boosts the state’s already robust abortion reporting by doctors, hospitals and the state’s Medicaid plan and includes the provisions for specific questioning of patients about their reasons for seeking an abortion.
In February, Herrod said the original legislation was all she planned to push this year, but that had changed by Thursday.
“Things change as bills move the legislative process,” she said.
Jodi Liggett, spokeswoman for abortion provider Planned Parenthood Arizona, said they oppose the entire legislation but especially the “interrogation” of patients. She said the bill will scare woman away from seeking health care.
“I would say that’s part of the intent here, to make it as difficult, emotionally wrenching and humiliating as possible,” she said. “That’s the point.”