Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Women’s choice, not lawmakers’

Citizen Staff Writer

Gov. Jan Brewer is as anti-choice as any conservative, but she’s also too smart to let HB 2564 become law this year.

The bill is jam-packed with vicious, patronizing edicts only a Neanderthal could love (no offense to Neanderthals).

For example, it would force any woman seeking an abortion to first get a lecture from a doctor, then wait 24 hours before obtaining the procedure.

The doctor would be legally required to discuss alternatives to abortion, the father’s responsibility to help support the child, and more.

“I, as a doctor, would have to provide a script regarding the social services available – that there will be assistance for child care and for food,” notes Democratic state Rep. Matt Heinz, a doctor at Tucson Medical Center.

“What a crock. It’s forcing the doctor to lie to the patient because we just cut the hell out of CPS,” Heinz said, referring to Child Protective Services. (He doesn’t perform abortions because he hasn’t had the training.)

Under the law, a doctor also would have to detail the gestational development and other characteristics of the fetus, providing an opportunity to guilt-trip the woman into instead having the baby.

Yet the bill also prohibits any person, including a parent, from “coercing a minor to obtain an abortion” – a mandate that desperately begs definition.

So under this bill, it’s OK to coerce a woman not to get an abortion, against her better judgment, but it’s illegal to encourage her to get one despite any health concerns.

For minors, Arizona already requires parental consent for abortion, with rare exceptions made in cases of incest and other extreme circumstances.

HB 2564 would require the parents to also have their consent notarized – making it a tad more difficult for families already suffering an emotional ordeal.

But these elements of the bill are innocuous compared with two other provisions:

• One clause would let doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health professionals refuse to provide abortions or even medication or emergency contraception.

So a rape victim living in a rural area with one fundamentalist, anti-abortion pharmacist could be refused emergency contraception.

If she then heads to the city for a surgical abortion, a likely reaction, do the anti-choice forces believe that’s better?

Besides, if a medical professional isn’t willing to provide legal, prescribed services or products, that person shouldn’t have entered the profession.

A pregnant woman whose life is at risk doesn’t have time to waste with a dithering doctor.

• Perhaps the most detrimental component of HB 2564, though, is the ban on nonphysicians performing abortion – a procedure routinely provided by nurse practitioners.

The Catch-22? Arizona doesn’t allow its medical school to train students to perform abortions.

That’s because the University of Arizona, where our state’s doctors train, wanted to expand its football stadium in 1974.

UA wanted that $5.5 million expansion so badly, it agreed to then-Rep. James Skelly’s condition that abortion and its clinical training be prohibited at University Medical Center.

So for 35 years, UA medical students have either gone to great trouble to get training off-site from Planned Parenthood – or have forgone instruction.

That’s a serious problem for any pregnant woman whose life is at stake.

Arizona, lacking sufficient doctors with adequate training, relies heavily on trained nurse practitioners to perform the typically simple surgery.

By barring them from that practice, HB 2564 would practically ban abortion from our state – and some women, most assuredly, would die for lack of access to the procedure.

Abortion is one of the most divisive issues of our time, and Brewer won’t let such controversy cloud her chances of being elected governor in 2010.

Besides, she’s focused on state finances these days, as she should be.

A dire recession such as ours probably isn’t the appropriate time to debate abortion. But it’s a discussion Arizona desperately needs to have someday.

We need UA medical students to get complete training, and we need strong support of Planned Parenthood, which does more to prevent abortions than any other entity.

We must provide medically accurate sex education and free or low-cost birth control wherever needed – both services that also would prevent abortion.

Arizona girls and women need to understand that abortion should not be regarded as a form of birth control; it should be a last resort.

But we also need legislators to understand that this highly personal, emotional decision is none of their business.

It is a decision a woman makes with the advice of her doctor; lawmakers – male or female – should butt out.

Reach Billie Stanton at 573-4664, bstanton@tucsoncitizen.com or billiestanton@gmail.com.


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