Unable to shepherd an abortion bill out of a House committee, pro-life advocates are resorting to a common legislative maneuver to revive the proposal.
Instead of persuading the chairman of the House committee who refused to hold a vote on the bill, they’re attaching its provisions onto another measure that is scheduled to receive a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 27.
The measure would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of gestation.
“We are striking the bill around (Rep.) Cecil Ash,” said Sen. Ron Gould, the Senate’s Judiciary chairman.
Ash, chairman of the House Public Safety and Human Services Committee, decided to hold the original proposal, HB2838, after two hours of discussion on Feb. 15. He wanted members to have the chance to consider new information offered during the hearing.
Supporters of the legislation will amend HB2036, which is now in the Senate, with the language of HB2838.
When asked about the bill’s chances, Gould said there are ample pro-life members on his committee.
Ash’s decision to hold the measure in his committee was a setback for the pro-life community.
Under that bill, physicians could be punished with professional misconduct – the original charge of a Class 5 felony was removed by an amendment – if they perform an abortion after the fetus is past 20 weeks of gestation.
The measure is being pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy, the influential pro-life group that has successfully backed for abortion restrictions over the past several years.
Deborah Sheasby, the center’s legal counsel, said the bill was intended to protect the health of the mother.
During the House committee hearing, Rep. Kimberly Yee, author of the legislation, quoted figures from the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research and policy analysis group, that the mortality rate for abortions increases from one per 29,000 at 16 to 20 weeks to one per 11,000 at 21 or more weeks.
But other committee members and people testifying, including physicians, pointed out that carrying a pregnancy to term includes its own risks, including preeclampsia and the risk of developing a pulmonary embolism.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as of 2006, the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is 13.3 deaths per 100,000 live births.
Critics also challenged the center’s assertion that medical evidence showed that a fetus can feel pain by 20 weeks, arguing that there was no consensus in the medical community on the issue.