Arizona will not be enacting a law to outlaw virtually all abortions, at least not this year.
Senate President Karen Fann told Capitol Media Services Tuesday she will not allow HB2140 to come to the floor for debate. It would have outlawed abortions at the point a fetal heartbeat could be conducted, as early as five weeks into pregnancy.
“This bill was not vetted properly with stakeholders to ensure it is constitutional,” Fann said. And there clearly was a consensus, even among supporters, that the measure would have run up against U.S. Supreme Court precedents dating back nearly half a century.
But Fann said there was another problem. She said that Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, who crafted the language did not check to see if it was acceptable to sufficient senators to survive the debate.
With all Democrats opposed, it would have required the approval of all 16 Senate Republicans. And Fann, who did not identify anyone specifically, said that isn’t the case.
Rogers did not respond to multiple messages seeking comment.
Fann’s decision does not mean an end to new abortion restrictions this session.
The Senate already has approved a measure making it a felony to terminate a pregnancy because of a fetal genetic defect. SB1457 still requires one more Senate vote after the House added its own modifications.
But HB2140 was much more far reaching. And that provoked some often heated debate when it cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee April 1, the only hearing it would get.
Rogers quoted from Psalms about how God knows people even in the uterus.
And then she made a reference to having visited Auschwitz, the extermination camp operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland and wondering how the residents of the nearby town could not know what was going on there even as the ashes of the burning corpses settled on the community.
“We know what we’re doing,” she told colleagues. “We know we are sacrificing innocent life.”
But the measure drew opposition not just from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, the political and lobbying arm of the organization, but also a lobbyist who represents doctors who would be placed in positions of having to determine whether exceptions to save the life of the mother would be allowed.
“They’re going to face potential criminal liability and severe civil liability if they make a decision to save the life of the mother and somebody second-guesses that decision later,” Steve Barclay said. “That could put more mothers in real danger because I think you’re going to have fewer neonatologists doing their jobs in these high-risk pregnancies.”
And there was something else: There was no lobbying for HB2140 by Cathi Herrod, president of the anti-abortion Center for Arizona Politics who has been a force over the years in getting lawmakers to enact a series of restrictions on the procedure. What it came down to, she told Capitol Media Services, is focusing on things that have a real chance, both politically and legally.
“I’m not opposed to heartbeat legislation,” she said.
“But the courts have declined to uphold heartbeat laws as constitutional,” Herrod continued. “Our focus is on SB1457 to protect babies with genetic abnormalities.”
That kind of legislation, she said, has at least some chance of surviving a legal challenge, pointing out there are virtually identical laws in four other states.
In fact, Arizona has its own similar law which prohibits aborting a fetus based on race or gender. And that law remains on the books after a challenge to that in federal court was thrown out.
Even if Rogers had somehow gotten her bill through the Senate, its future in the House would be questionable at best, with the very real possibility that Speaker Rusty Bowers might have quashed it there.
Earlier this year, Bowers quashed an even more far-reaching proposal by Rep. Walt Blackman, R-Snowflake.
He had introduced HB2650 which would have required prosecutors to bring homicide charges in any case of abortion “regardless of any contrary or conflicting federal laws, regulations, treaties, court decisions or executive orders.” And those charges would be against not just the doctor but also against the mother.
Bowers refused to even assign that measure to a committee for a hearing.