Arizona women will not be able to terminate a pregnancy after 19 weeks unless it is a medical emergency.
Gov. Jan Brewer on Thursday signed legislation making it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion at or beyond 20 weeks. Violators could not only lose their medical licenses but also be sent to jail for up to six months.
Brewer provided no explanation of her decision. But the governor is on record as supporting an outright ban on all abortions — at any stage of pregnancy — except to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.
The governor also has signed a series of other restrictions on abortion since taking office in 2009. These include a requirement for a woman to have a face-to-face consultation with a medical professional at least 24 hours before the procedure, a ban on abortions by nurse practitioners, and a mandate for written, notarized parental consent before a minor can terminate a pregnancy.
The law supersedes existing statutes which allow abortions up to the time of viability, the point at which a fetus could survive outside a womb. That is generally pegged in the 22 to 24 week range.
It also will make Arizona the seventh state in the nation to have such a restriction.
Brewer’s action Thursday was only one of several measures which lawmakers said are designed to trim the reproductive rights of women.
The Senate approved legislation which would allow at least some employers to refuse to include birth control in insurance for workers. That move came after the sponsor agreed to curtail the measure.
And in separate action, senators voted to prohibit the use of any federal family planning funds to any organization that also provides abortions, even if the money is used for other purposes. Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, acknowledged the measure is aimed strictly at Planned Parenthood.
The ban on abortions at 20 weeks is based on two arguments. One is that the later the procedure is performed, the greater the risks to the mother. There also were arguments — disputed by some — that a fetus at 20 weeks is capable of feeling pain.