Friday, April 27, 2012

Arizona and the Politics of Abortion


Article first published as Arizona and the Politics of Abortion on Technorati.


If you were born anytime during the last half of the 20th century it's probable that someone at some point ended a sentence with the phrase, "when you were just a twinkle in your mother's eye." 
With the stroke of a pen Governor Jan Brewer (Repbulican, AZ) has made that seemingly flippant statement legally binding...

Under Arizona's HB 2036 anti-abortion law, conception is now considered to take place the first day of its mother's last menstrual period.    The issue stems from language in the bill (similar to ambiguous language in the recent HB 2549 anti-bullying law)  that refers to a "gestational age" which is calculated from the previously mentioned timeframe extending to 20 weeks at which point any abortion would be outlawed except in cases of medical emergency.

Do the math and it appears an Arizona woman could be considered pregnant before even engaging in a sexual act.  Old wives' tales of pregnancy due to use of public restrooms come to mind.  Apparently the Arizona House puts merit in the possibility...

Section 5 of the bill outlines a litany of directives that must be satisfied for compliance with the law.  That includes a directive to the state department of Health Services to deploy an informational abortion  website.  The verbiage is very specific as to the content of this website.  From Section 5 Part C:

6. Information that is designed to inform the woman of the probable anatomical and physiological characteristics of the unborn child at two‑week gestational increments from fertilization to full term, including pictures or drawings representing the development of unborn children at two‑week gestational increments and any relevant information on the possibility of the unborn child's survival. The pictures or drawings must contain the dimensions of the unborn child and must be realistic and appropriate for each stage of pregnancy. The information provided pursuant to this paragraph must be objective, nonjudgmental and designed to convey only accurate scientific information about the unborn child at the various gestational ages.

At this point the law is both ambiguous and graphic, not far removed from the depictions of aborted fetuses seen on the signs and banners of anti-abortion activists.  Therein lies a serious issue.  The state has effectively taken a side in the argument.  The use of the state's website to depict abortion at various stages of fetal development (at 2 week intervals) is perhaps the most unambiguous part of the bill.

Pulled from the context of the abortion debate such directives are no different than if the state were to require an agency's website to depict the grisly outcomes of capital crimes such as murder and rape in the name of the public good.   This too would be informational but lacking any political motive, unlikely to find support in the Arizona legislature. 

In related news, The Arizona state Senate passed a bill to ban public funding of Planned Parenthood because the organization performs abortions as well as providing family planning and preventative care services.  The move was said to ensure that no public funds are used for abortion services.  Planned parenthood says the funding ban would affect services for 19,000 Arizona women many of which have limited means.

Arizona currently has an unemployment rate of 8.7 percent and thousands of residents without health care due to changes in eligibility requirements for AHCCCS (Arizona's Medicaid program).  It's strange then, that so much legislative effort appears to be focused on purely political agendas instead of pressing economic and social concerns.  Ah, but this is Arizona we're talking about after all with plenty of precedent for such things...