Arizona’s New Abortion Law Gives Pregancy a Pause

But to understand the poorly conceived logic behind this provision, background information is needed. On April 10, Arizona’s Republican-dominated House of Representatives passed three anti-abortion bills that are now waiting for Republican Gov. Jan Brewer’s likely signature. The first bill, which the controversy surrounds, attempts to prohibit abortions after the 18th week of pregnancy, that is, to establish fetal viability at 18 weeks.

Viability is a strange concept, but thankfully, my legal textbook from this quarter will come in handy — so will my class’s three-hour lectures on abortion, contraception and sodomy. In 1972, the landmark case Roe v. Wade established a woman’s right to abort her pregnancy under the three trimester rule — during her first three months of pregnancy, she could have an abortion with no input from the state; the next three months would require a doctor’s consent; the final three months would require her to carry out her pregnancy to term. 

In 1993 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the trimester system was scrapped for something called “viability,” that is, the point during the pregnancy when the fetus would be able to live outside of the mother’s womb (with medical help). The time period established was 28 weeks, or 7 months (right in the middle of the second trimester) but it could go as early as 22 weeks. Currently, most states, including California, use 20 weeks as the cutoff date. 

Of course, as stated earlier, Arizona’s new law states viability at 18 weeks. In order to finagle its status as the state that hates abortion the very most, Arizona lawmakers had to be a little liberal (gasp) with the wording of the word “conception.” Hence, the definition of pregnancy at two weeks before actual conception. 

But we should be fair to the Arizona House of Representatives. Even though this bill is clearly an obvious ploy to damage the abortion rights given to women by Roe v. Wade, apparently, this new definition of pregnancy is actually already used by medical professionals. Because the exact date of conception is hard to pinpoint, doctors end up using the day of the woman’s last menstrual period as the day of conception. 

Definitions aside, this does not change the fact that the medical definition of gestation is a convenient excuse for Republican lawmakers to push their anti-abortion agenda. If this law passes, it will join SB1070 in the ranks of Arizona’s insane ultra-conservatism. 

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