First, an apology. I misstated the specifics of this law yesterday. I thought it limited abortions to the first 18 weeks, beginning with the first day of the last menstrual cycle. It limits them to the first 20 weeks, effectively the first 17 to 18 weeks of gestation.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the bill into law late Thursday. The bill does exempt “medical emergency” abortions, about 1% of all abortions.
Turns out the gestational age is not the most restrictive part of this bill. There is a restriction on non-surgical abortions, those performed by administration of a medication. They are performed in the first nine weeks of pregnancy and are about 17 to 20 percent of all abortions, according to the the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion statistics better than the CDC. The Arizona law says that anyone administering these medications must be standing within 30 miles of a hospital at which the provider has privileges. The reason these non-surgical abortions are popular in a state as freaking large as Arizona is that they could be performed in clinics in rural areas that were hours away from the nearest hospital. This new law effectively shuts down abortion access for rural women. The law also imposes protocols for the administration of the medications which are outdated, only proving that one should never let non-professional decide professional standards in a law. The legislature has imposed rules that would lead to improper administration of the drugs.
Other parts of the bill (my second error, sorry) mandates school curriculums that stress birth and adoption instead of abortion, mandates signs in abortion facilities warning against “coercion” to get an abortion, and orders the state health department to create a website stressing birth and adoption and showing pictures of fetuses. In case you have never seen a fetal development site, they typically show a female body in profile, with a window projected out of the uterus that blows up the picture of the fetus to larger than the adult carrying it. It distorts the actual size of the fetus at every early stage of development. That’s fine in a voluntarily search for information, but deceptive when it is aimed at convincing women they are carrying a baby instead of a fetus the size and shape of a kidney bean.
In a truly obscene twist of logic, Americans United for Life credit President Obama with the passage of this bill. If he had not taped former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano to be Secretary of Homeland Security, Jan Brewer would never have become governor and would never have had the incumbent’s advantage for being elected in 2010 and this bill would have been vetoed. The AUL’s fingerprints are all over this bill, just as they are all over the other bills that have been passed in Republican states. The AUL is to abortion laws what ALEC is to labor union-busting laws and voting rights restriction laws. Isn’t it nice to know that two activist groups are writing the laws in so many states?
Speaking of the Guttmacher Institute, as mentioned above, they gather every imaginable statistic about abortion. Their website is the go-to for factual data about the ages of mothers, their marital status, just about everything you could want to know. So, I would really like them to draw up a new set of statistics, based on a what-if. What if there were no legal abortions in America? First of all, how many of the babies would end up on welfare, how many in the foster system? How many profoundly disabled babies would be delivered and who would pay for their care? In a nation where there is such a strong drive to limit “entitlement” spending, what would be the impact on social services if there were no legal abortions? And, while we’re at it, how about extrapolating the illegal abortion statistics from Argentina to estimate how many illegal abortions would be performed if women could not get legal ones, and how many women would die or be permanently disabled by illegal abortions. There were 50 million illegal abortions in Argentina last year, where the population is 40 million, and 1.5 million legal ones in America, with a population of 312 million. Argentina can also provide a connection between a lack of access to birth control and unwanted pregnancies. We cannot go back and reconstruct these numbers from our past, but we can use Argentina today to estimate the impact of criminalizing abortions and restricting access to birth control, either through dropping it from health insurance or defunding the agency which provides contraception to so many women, Planned Parenthood. I’d really like to see those statistics.