Controversial abortion bill revived in Arizona Senate – The State of Reform
Using a strategic legislative maneuver, Arizona Senator Nancy Barto reignited her contested Invoice prohibiting abortions performed on the basis of a genetic abnormality of the fetus. Following an amended version of the bill’s one-vote failure in the Senate, Barto also changed his vote to “no,” allowing him to bring SB 1457 up for reconsideration.
Following an impromptu conference committee hearing on the bill on Monday, Sen. Tyler Pace said his concerns about a jury overturning a medical professional’s decision had been addressed. With the only opposing Republican on board, the bill is back on track to pass its second chamber.
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Pace initially voted against the bill when the Senate voted a second time to approve Rep. Regina Cobb’s replacement amendment, which exempted fetuses with “serious fetal abnormalities” from the abortion restriction. The amendment defines a severe fetal abnormality as “a life-threatening physical condition which, in reasonable medical judgment, regardless of the provision of life-saving medical treatment, is incompatible with life.”
In explaining his vote, Pace expressed concern about the criminalization of any doctor who performs an abortion in which the fetus may have a genetic abnormality. Even exempting abortions for severe fetal abnormalities, the “reasonable medical judgment” required by a physician in determining whether or not to abort was too ambiguous, according to Pace.
Although he was a self-proclaimed pro-life lawmaker, he thought the bill was too broad in its criminalization of doctors and gave too much voice to non-medical professionals:
“If a doctor were to perform an abortion outside of the legal realm, within the scope of this bill, and perform an abortion for a severe fetal abnormality, he would have to use ‘reasonable medical judgment’, and that seems reasonable. However, a jury would have to determine what medical judgment was reasonable. We ask a panel of lay people to determine medical judgment – to play the role of the board of medicine. It’s a big reach.
He presented an amendment to Monday’s conference committee stating that only doctors who knowingly perform wanted abortions solely on the basis of a fetus with a genetic abnormality can be criminally charged. It also replaces the term “serious fetal anomaly” with “fatal fetal condition”, a previously defined statutory term.
While those clarifications satisfied Pace, Democratic Senator Kirsten Engel — also on the conference committee — argued that the amendment still doesn’t address his original concern, saying determining a doctor’s intent to perform an abortion is always subjective and should not be judged by a jury.
Pace acknowledged that there is still some subjectivity in the provision, but noted that his amendment removes the “reasonable medical judgment” guideline and only includes “good faith clinical judgment.” According to him, this last requirement is clearer and much less subjective.
In the last week of the legislative session, Barto’s revived bill has yet to go to the Senate for a final vote. When State of Reform contacted Pace’s office regarding the status of the bill, they claimed SB 1457 was back on track to be heard.