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Arizona Republicans Want to Know Why You Want Abortion Care (Updated)

Nicole Knight

“I stand with a chorus of women who say … 'Why did I have an abortion: It’s none of your business,'” said state Rep. Athena Salman (D-Tempe).

UPDATE, April 16, 10:28 a.m.: Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) last week signed SB 1394.

Controversial Arizona legislation expanding the amount of information collected about abortions performed in the state and questioning patients about their abortions is one step away from the governor.

The bill adds requirements for abortion care providers to report medical complications to the state health department, and it asks patients to explain whether their reason for getting an abortion was rape, incest, fetal or maternal health, domestic violence, sex trafficking, or coercion.

An earlier version had asked if one of the reasons for the abortion was an extramarital affair. Abortion patients can choose not to answer these questions.

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SB 1394, which cleared the GOP-majority house Monday on a party-line vote, needs a quick approval in the Republican-controlled state senate before going to Gov. Doug Ducey (R), an abortion rights foe.

The Republican backers of SB 1394 maintain the bill safeguards women’s health, but Democratic lawmakers during a floor vote on Monday called the legislation burdensome, intrusive, and politically motivated.

“I stand with a chorus of women who say … ‘Why did I have an abortion: It’s none of your business,’” said state Rep. Athena Salman (D-Tempe).

Laws in nearly every state require physicians to send a report every time they perform an abortion. Arizona law already requires abortion care providers to ask patients about their marital status, race, ethnicity, and education, past miscarriages, and prior abortions.

Some state laws hew to draft legislation from the influential anti-choice group Americans United for Life, which maintains that “American abortion data is inaccurate and often misleading.” Mostly Republican-controlled states have advanced 80 new abortion reporting requirements since January 2017, with mixed success.

Rep. Kirsten Engel (D-Tucson) questioned the motivation for adding a new layer of regulation on abortion, which is safer than childbirth.

Championing the bill was the state’s influential Center for Arizona Policy, a lobbying group behind dozens of abortion restrictions. Opposing it were representatives from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Arizona Public Health Association, Arizona Chapter of the American Academy Of Pediatrics, and Arizona Medical Association.

“Why don’t we have docs in favor of this? They don’t want to do more reporting,” suggested Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (R-Gilbert), when a member noted that medical groups oppose the bill.

Democrats attempted to amend the bill to roll back existing abortion restrictions. Salman introduced an amendment to impose reporting requirements on crisis pregnancies centers, or fake clinics, which are unregulated even though, Salman said, the facilities often look like health clinics and typically offer pregnancy tests and ultrasounds.

Responding to Salman’s amendment, Farnsworth said fake clinics were not medical providers. “They’re not practicing medicine. If they are, then they’re already breaking the law.”

Rep. Daniel Hernandez (D-Tucson) suggested if the bill’s sponsors were serious about protecting reproductive health, then patients should also be asked whether the reason for the abortion was that they lacked inadequate access to affordable birth control or comprehensive sexual education. He offered an amendment to do so.

The Democrats’ amendments were defeated.

An earlier Republican-led amendment would’ve required a fetal tissue sample from patients who said the reason for the abortion was sexual assault. But the fetal-tissue provision didn’t make the final cut.

“This is not about women’s health,” Salman said before the vote. “This puts the government in the room with a woman and her doctor in a decision that is intimate and private that the Supreme Court has found constitutional.”

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