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Arizona bill declares women pregnant two weeks before conception

Published time: April 05, 2012 19:35
Edited time: April 05, 2012 23:36
AFP Photo / Gent Shkullaku

AFP Photo / Gent Shkullaku

A new bill up for vote in the state of Arizona would ban abortions for some expectant mothers, but that’s only the start of what lawmakers have in store. If the legislation passes, the state will consider a child to exist even before conception.

Under Arizona’s H.B. 2036, the state would recognize the start of the unborn child’s life to be the first day of its mother’s last menstrual period. The legislation is being proposed so that lawmakers can outlaw abortions on fetuses past the age of 20-weeks, but the verbiage its authors use to construct a time cycle for the baby would mean that the start of the child's life could very well occur up to two weeks before the mother and father even ponder procreating.

On page eight of the proposed amendment to H.B. 2036, lawmakers lay out the “gestational age” of the child to be “calculated from the first day of the last menstrual period of the pregnant woman,” and from there, outlaws abortion “if the probable gestational age of [the] unborn child has been determined to be at least twenty weeks.”

The architects of the amendment say that prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks — except in cases of medical emergency — is necessary for the safety of both mother and child. By designating a life to begin weeks before even possible, however, some critics are condemning Arizona lawmakers for looking for a way to involve itself in abortion matters before it can even become an issue.

“Certainly, they are trying move the gestational cutoff from what had been over the last two years a 20-week gestational cutoff to an 18-week gestational cutoff,” Guttmacher Institute’s State Issues Manager Elizabeth Nash tells Raw Story. “At the same time, they are trying to say, ‘Oh, this is a 20-week abortion ban.’ And they get away with that with the definition of gestational age that’s in the bill.”

“Considering that it’s anti-choice nuts we’re talking about, it’s safe to assume that they’d simply prefer a situation where all women of reproductive age are considered to be pregnant, on the grounds that they could be two weeks from now,” RH Reality Check’s Amanda Marcotte adds in a recently-penned editorial. “Better safe than sorry, especially if that mentality means you get to exert maximum control over the bodies of women of reproductive age.”

In extending her support for the legislation, however, sponsor Nancy Barto, a Republican senator representing the Phoenix, Arizona area says that fetuses are able to feel pain after the 20-week mark. Also favoring the proposal, Senator Steve Smith (R-Maricopa) adds that lawmakers also need to consider “the 50 million-plus children who have been killed” since the US Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v Wade.

"I would like to listen to the 50 million-plus children that have been aborted and killed since Roe v. Wade,'' the senator says."I would like to listen to what they think of this bill.''

Mother Jones adds in their own reporting, however, that while the law could be explained as an effort to deter complications that come from late-term abortions, opening up the window for the gestational age to begin before conception can hurt the parents in the long run. Essentially the act would outlaw abortion after 18 weeks, not 20 as the legislation claims, which could keep some concerned parents from making a decision about pregnancy before some medical procedures that gauge the health of the child are able to be determined. While some tests can be conducted soon after conception to catch potential life-threatening conditions and other impairments, outlawing abortions after the eighteenth week could keep parents from opting for abortion after other tests can be carried out (before the 20-week mark).

H.B. 2036 passed in the Arizona Senator by 20-to-10 and will soon go before the state’s House. To Raw Story, Elizabeth Nash says she believes the bill has a “very good chances of passage.”

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