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Abortion bill amended to strike controversial provision

A House committee struck a controversial provision from a bill that expands the amount of information abortion providers must report to the state.

Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (R-Gilbert)

Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (R-Gilbert)

The amendment, introduced by Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, removed a provision from SB1394 that would have required providers to ask women more specific reasons why they’re seeking an abortion.

Approved by the Senate, 17-13, on a party-line vote, the bill spelled out 10 possible reasons for why a women got an abortion, such as for economic reasons, whether the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, or because the pregnancy resulted in fetal anomalies.

Under current Arizona law enacted in 2010, hospitals and physicians are only required to report to the Arizona Department of Health Services whether an abortion performed was elective or if it was done for the health and safety of the mother or fetus.

Farnsworth’s amendment reinstates that requirement. He did not provide an explanation for why he amended the bill.

It was approved March 14 by the House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, 6-3, with Democrats Kirsten Engel, Daniel Hernandez and Sally Ann Gonzales voting against the measure.

The vote came a day after women’s rights activists, Planned Parenthood of Arizona and House Democrats took to the Capitol on March 13 in opposition of SB1394.

During a news conference in the Rose Garden, several women spoke out against the bill, arguing that not only were the added reporting requirements intrusive, they were meant to shame women.

Democratic Reps. Athena Salman, Rebecca Rios, Engel and Gonzales also called on House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, to assign the bill to the Health Committee, arguing that it was a health and not a judicial issue.

Salman told the Arizona Capitol Times that she met with Mesnard on March 12 to discuss reassigning the bill or assigning it to both committees. However, her pleas weren’t heeded.

She added that Mesnard told her the bill was assigned to Judiciary and Public Safety because abortion is a constitutional issue.

She pointed to proponents of the bill who have touted it as a public health issue, and said bills that seek to amend Arizona Revised Statute Title 36, which deals with public health and safety, are often assigned to the Health Committee.

“It’s a disservice to the women of Arizona for SB1394 to not be considered in the Health Committee,” she said. “Assigning it to the committee dealing with crime and punishment is the definition of playing politics with women’s health.”

Mesnard told the Capitol Times that when SB1394 was transferred to the House, there were three committees he debated assigning it to: Federalism, Property Rights and Public Policy, Judiciary and Public Safety, or Health.

He said a “breakdown in communication” led to the bill first being assigned to the Federalism committee, but he ultimately decided to assign the bill to Judiciary because he sees it as a public safety-related bill.

He noted that abortion issues often lead to litigation, which is why he thought it was appropriate to assign it to the committee that deals with constitutionality and laws.

He said he would not double assign the bill to another committee.

“It’s not unusual for bills to go to different committees, and while some people would take that opportunity to double assign, I generally try to avoid that, especially if it’s going to add barriers to good policy that I would like to see move forward,” Mesnard said.

The  bill now heads to the Rules Committee before going up for a vote on the House floor.

One comment

  1. If the controversial portion of SB1394 was struck, why is there a bill at all? Asking demographic information from women having an abortion is yet another ridiculous “add on” designed to placate Cathy Herrod’s obsession with abortion. When will this state move on and accept that abortion is legal, safe and should be a personal decision a woman makes with her partner?

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