Arizona Senate Approves 15-Week Abortion Ban

Arizona Senate Approves 15-Week Abortion Ban
A pro-life campaigner displays a plastic doll representing a 12-week-old fetus as she stands outside the Marie Stopes Clinic in Belfast, Northern Ireland on April 7, 2016. (Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Mimi Nguyen Ly

The Arizona Senate on Feb. 15 approved legislation that would ban abortions after 15 weeks.

The vote was 16–13 along party lines in the GOP-controlled upper chamber; all Democrats voted against the bill.
Senate Bill 1164 (pdf) now moves to the state House, which is also controlled by Republicans. If passed, the bill will go to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk. Ducey, a Republican, opposes abortion.

Under the measure, if enacted, doctors who carry out an abortion after 15 weeks could potentially face a year in prison and have their medical licenses revoked.

Text of the proposed legislation reads: “Except in a medical emergency, a physician may not intentionally or knowingly perform, induce or attempt to perform or induce an abortion if the probable gestational age of the unborn human being has been determined to be greater than fifteen weeks.”

The measure doesn’t have any exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

“The baby inside of a woman is a separate life and needs to be protected,” state Sen. Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix), a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement, according to “All life is sacred.”

“The state has an obligation to protect life, and that is what this bill is about,” Barto said during the debate, The Associated Press reported. “A 15-week-old baby in the womb has a fully formed nose, lips, eyelids, they suck their thumbs. They feel pain. That’s what this bill is about.”

The proposed bill could potentially prevent hundreds of abortions in Arizona every year. According to state health statistics (pdf), 669 unborn babies were aborted at 16 weeks or later in 2019.

Democrats argued the measure is unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade. The 1973 ruling prohibited states from banning abortions prior to when the fetus is considered “viable”—that is, potentially able to live outside its mother’s womb—deemed at the time usually around the second trimester of pregnancy at 24 weeks.

Arizona’s proposed ban is modeled after a Mississippi law—which also bans abortion after 15 weeks of gestation—currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court, which agreed to take up the case (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization 19-1392) in May 2021, is due to rule by the end of June on the law’s constitutionality.

Barto said she hopes the court will overturn Roe v. Wade.

“A ruling in that case is expected in June. This measure makes Arizona ready to enforce that law if and when that decision is made,” Barto said, reported.

State Sen. Martin Quezada (D-Glendale) said that by counting on that ruling, senators are simply acting to attract a lawsuit against the state, the outlet reported.

In 2013, a federal appeals court in San Francisco struck down Arizona’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Planned Parenthood issued a statement criticizing the proposal, with Planned Parenthood Arizona CEO and President Brittany Fonteno saying it would be “denying Arizonians the right to make their own health care decisions.”

“Arizona politicians are banking on the Supreme Court upholding Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban so they can quickly strip Arizonians of their rights and begin enforcement,” she said.