Arizona's Republican Governor Jan Brewer officially banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy on Thursday, when she signed into law the latest in controversial state statutes aiming to restrict abortion access.
The Arizona law exempts women more than 20 weeks pregnant if a doctor determines they are facing a medical emergency. Pro-abortion rights group Planned Parenthood says that could mean doctors will refuse to perform the abortions after 20 weeks for fear of prosecution.
“Politicians should not be involved in a woman’s personal medical decisions about her pregnancy. Ultimately, decisions about whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy, or raise a child must be left to a woman, her family, and her faith, with the counsel of her doctor,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.
Arizona joins Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, and North Carolina as states that ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Georgia passed a similar bill last month; Republican Governor Nathan Deal has yet to sign it. Abortions banned after 20 weeks are the earliest gestational restrictions on abortion in the country.
There has been a surge in abortion restrictions passed on the state level since 2010. According to the liberal Guttmacher Institute, 55 percent of reproductive-age women lived in a state “hostile” to abortion in 2011, compared to only 31 percent in 2000.
"In the first three months of 2012, legislators in 45 of the 46 legislatures that have convened this year introduced 944 provisions related to reproductive health and rights. Half of these provisions would restrict abortion access. So far, 75 abortion restrictions have been approved by at least one legislative chamber, and nine have been enacted," Guttmacher said in a statement.
Some of those include a Mississippi bill awaiting state senate action, which would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, and a Virginia law requiring providers to perform an ultrasound 24 hours before the abortion procedure.
"This year legislators are particularly focused on measures that require a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound; that limit access to medication abortion; and that prohibit abortion at a specific point in gestation. Legislators in several states—mirroring the debate at the national level—are also considering measures allowing employers to refuse to provide insurance coverage for contraceptive methods," Guttmacher added.