House passes bills adding restrictions on abortions

Caitlin Coakley Beckner//February 28, 2011

House passes bills adding restrictions on abortions

Caitlin Coakley Beckner//February 28, 2011

The Arizona House of Representatives on Monday, Feb. 28, passed two more abortion bills.

HB 2416, sponsored by Rep. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, would impose a number of new requirements on clinics or practitioners offering abortions.

The bill would require that a woman be given the chance to see an ultrasound and hear the heartbeat, if audible, of the fetus at least an hour before the termination. It also expands the definition of abortion in existing statutes and regulations to include the taking of mifepristone, the so-called abortion pill.

HB 2384, sponsored by House Majority Whip Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, prevents the giving of tax credits for financial contributions to entities that do abortions. For example, donations to Planned Parenthood or other clinics that provide abortions would not be eligible for the Working Poor Tax Credit.

Also under the bill, institutions that receive state funding would not be allowed to offer training on how to perform an abortion. The University of Arizona, for instance, which receives state money, would not be able to offer training in abortion procedures.

Arguing for her bill, Yee said that it aimed to protect women’s health while preserving their right to have an abortion if they so choose.

“This bill still allows woman to have an abortion,” she said, “but it allows that she may have all the information when making that choice, including an ultrasound and hearing a heartbeat.”

Other supporters of the bill said they knew of women who had abortions and who said if they had seen the ultrasound, they would have made a different choice.

But during discussion on the House floor, Rep. Tom Chabin, D-Flagstaff, questioned Yee’s motives in offering the bill. Because most clinics, including Planned Parenthood, include as part of a pregnant woman’s routine care ultrasounds and auscultation on the fetus, and Yee’s bill stipulated that the woman may sign a waiver if she does not want to see the ultrasound or hear the heartbeat, he asked what the purpose of the bill was.

“Why would we put her through any other process except for the hope that it may somehow hinder her capacity to make that choice,” Chabin asked. In his follow-up question, he got more direct: “Is it the intent of your law to somehow obstruct or delay a woman her constitutional right to an abortion?”

The question, which Yee flatly answered with a no, drew a rebuke by Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, who was serving of chair of the Committee of the Whole at the time.

There was debate, also, over Lesko’s bill. An outspoken supporter of pro-life legislation in the past, Lesko argued that the bill was simply closing a “loophole” in an existing statute that prohibits public funding for abortion.

Critics argued the bill would have unintended consequences.

On the floor, Rep. Matt Heinz, D-Tucson, said he was concerned that under the bill, the University of Arizona may lose the national accreditation for its obstetrics and gynecology program if it weren’t able to offer training in abortion procedures.

He and other critics also said clinics that do not offer abortions might suffer. For instance, if a clinic did not perform abortions, but it referred women to clinics that performed abortions or educated those women about their options, including abortion, donations to that clinic might not be eligible for tax credits.

Last week, the House passed a bill banning gender-selection and race-selection abortions.

In explaining his vote on the floor, Heinz said that the three abortion bills, plus one resolution in support of pregnancy care centers, were typical of the number offered in most sessions, but still too many.

“Maybe next session you can just ban it outright,” he said, “and let the courts decide.”

Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, argued that the courts had upheld that tax credits for donations were not considered taxpayer dollars. Otherwise, she said, such donations to private religious schools would be ineligible as well.

Both bills passed with identical votes of 40-18, with Rep. Russ Jones, R-Yuma, and Rep. Vic Williams, R-Tucson, absent. Democrats Catherine Miranda, D-Phoenix, and Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson, voted in favor of both bills.