Gov. Jan Brewer’s decision to sign legislation imposing new restrictions on abortion showed her conservative stripes after months of wrangling with fellow Republicans over elements of her budget proposal.
Her actions on the abortion bills also signaled a clear departure from those of her predecessor, Democrat Janet Napolitano, who vetoed similar measures passed during previous legislative sessions.
“Governor Brewer moved Arizona in the right direction,” said Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy, one of the groups advocating for the passage of the measures restricting abortion. “Arizonans today are encouraged by having a governor who supports the values they share.”
Last year when she was governor, Napolitano vetoed several abortion bills and chided the Legislature for sending her measures that would “introduce” more penalties into the relationship between a woman and her doctor.
Two measures signed by Brewer on July 13 put additional restrictions on abortions performed in Arizona and modified the definition of partial-birth abortion.
A third bill prohibits those who are not physicians from performing surgical abortions.
Under H2564, women who seek an abortion would have to wait at least 24 hours between the time they speak to a doctor about terminating a pregnancy and the actual procedure.
The legislation requires doctors who will perform the abortions to speak with their patients in person and provide information on the immediate and long-term risks associated with abortion, alternatives to the procedure and the “probable anatomical and physiological characteristics” of the unborn child.
In addition, doctors must inform each woman seeking an abortion that medical-assistance benefits may be available if she went through with the pregnancy, such as prenatal and neonatal care.
Michelle Steinberg of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona said the bill is designed to restrict women’s access to abortion care.
“This is an attack on access to women’s health care, and this will create a situation by which women will delay their care, increasing their risk,” Steinberg said.
Brewer also signed H2400, which modifies the definition of partial-birth abortion and specifies the term of imprisonment for someone who performs the procedure.
In 1997, the Legislature passed a law prohibiting partial-birth abortion unless necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman. Violating the law was punishable as a Class 6 felony. The law also allowed for civil action by the father or maternal grandparents if the patient was a minor at the time of the abortion. A U.S. District Court struck down the act as unconstitutional that same year.
In 2003, Congress enacted its own a partial-birth abortion ban, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in 2007.
H2400 mirrors the federal law, specifying that a physician who violates the prohibition shall be fined or imprisoned for a maximum of two years.
It also modifies the definition of partial-birth abortion in more specific terms than what was in statute.
The new definition would define it as “deliberately and intentionally… deliver(ing) a living fetus until, in the case of a headfirst presentation, the entire fetal head is outside the body of the mother or, in the case of breech presentation, any part of the fetal trunk past the naval is outside the body of the mother for the purpose of performing an overt act that the person knows will kill the partially delivered living fetus.”
H2564, one of the bills signed by Brewer, revisited a proposal that Napolitano rejected last year. The bill would require a pregnant minor to prove to a superior court judge by clear and convincing evidence that she is sufficiently mature and capable of giving informed consent to an abortion without consulting her parent or guardian, based on her experience, perspective, and judgment.
The bill allows judges to consider a minor’s age and experiences working outside the home, living away from home, traveling on her own, handling personal finances and making other significant decisions.
Finally, Brewer also signed S1175, which prohibits anyone who is not an osteopathic or allopathic physician from performing a surgical abortion.
During a debate last month on the measure prohibiting abortion without the voluntary and informed consent of the woman, Sen. Linda Lopez, the minority whip, called it an attack on women’s rights and their “moral decision-making authority.”
But Sen. Linda Gray, a Republican from Glendale and one of the bills strongest supporters, said many medical procedures require informed consent.