On Saturday, April 2nd, Arizona’s governor Jan Brewer attended a dinner with the Center for Arizona Policy, an anti-choice PAC whose sole mission is to outlaw abortion. At the dinner, Brewer signed HB2416 into law. This bill has several restrictions on abortion. And Brewer’s choice to sign the bill at the CAP dinner is a very clear signal about the status of women’s health in the state of Arizona. The Republican super-majority in the state legislature and the governor would rather play politics with women’s lives than actually pass policies that will help reduce the need for abortion by making birth control and comprehensive sex education the hallmark of our state’s public health approach.
AJ’s article mentioned that HB2416 restricts access to medical abortion (which is performed by administering two pills that induce abortion) by legally requiring a physician to perform abortions. But AJ didn’t tell you an important part of how that was accomplished. HB2416 defines medical abortion as “surgery.” Next time you take your allergy pills in the morning, you should ask yourself, “am I having a surgery? Do I need to check myself into a hospital to take this pill?” Because that is what HB2416 says is the law – as far as the abortion pill is concerned, anyway.
Defining medical abortion as surgery will have a very harsh effect on women in rural communities. Currently, there are only two women’s health clinics in the state of Arizona that employ a physician – the rest have nurse practitioners and midwives. Those clinics are located in Tucson and Phoenix. Women who live outside of the Tucson and Phoenix metro areas will have to travel several hours to get to an abortion clinic. And with the state’s 24 hour waiting period (which was passed in 2009 under HB2564), that trip may involve an overnight stay in a motel, or several additional hours of travel if the women decide to drive back and forth for their appointments.
The other point to consider is that the overwhelming majority of abortions occur within the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, when medical abortion is the preferred course of treatment. By limiting the accessibility of early abortion, the state legislature has reduced the ability of women to be able to make appointments, and therefore increased the likelihood that women will have to undergo surgical abortions later in pregnancy because they have had to wait longer just to get an appointment. This will substantially increase the cost of the abortion, providing one more hurdle for women to overcome in order to obtain an abortion.
But just in case you thought there might be a way to circumvent the burden HB2416 places on women, such as the use of telemedicine to make medical abortion more accessible to women in rural communities, don’t get your hopes up. HB2416 outlaws the use of telemedicine, but only in cases of abortion. The state legislature has approved the use of telemedicine for major surgery. But telemedicine is now illegal – but only for abortions. As far as the Center for Arizona Policy, Jan Brewer, and the Arizona state legislature are concerned, women are better off using rusty hangers to induce abortions than they are receiving safe and compassionate care from a health care practitioner.
HB2416 also requires that minors who are seeking a judicial bypass for the parental consent to obtain an abortion (which was imposed in 2009 by HB2564) have a guardian ad litem appointed by the courts. Way to tell a teen who already has enough on her plate that you really don’t give a shit about her. Thumbs down, Arizona.
Stay tuned for future developments from Arizona. There are seven more pieces of anti-choice legislation still working their way through the legislature. This is going to be a really tough year to be a woman in the state of Arizona – and it’s only going to get harder as time goes on and the true effects of these bills are felt.
Serena is a freelance writer who enjoys baking, protesting, and playing with little dogs.