One of the most extreme abortion bans signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) earlier this year will go into effect Thursday.
The new law ruled as being constitutional by Federal Judge James Teilborg, forbids doctors to abort fetuses 20 weeks or older. This comes in right under the 23-24 week period when a doctor can determine if the fetus will be stillborn or if the baby will die soon after being born.
What this means is that by law a woman could find herself forced to carry a dead fetus to term. In other words, if the fetus does not survive pregnancy after 21 weeks, the mother would have to carry her dead baby in her womb for the remaining 17 weeks—or until she miscarried naturally. That’s just over 4 months of a woman going grocery shopping, paying bills, going to work—all the while knowing a dead child is inside.
The law states that gestation begins immediately after a woman menstruates. Rarely do women become pregnant just after their periods. It is often two or so weeks after menstruation that a woman ovulates, which is a necessary part of becoming pregnant. Because of this, what would normally be considered an 18-week gestation period is now, under this new law, 20 weeks.
Teilborg concludes that it is not a ban at all because it makes exceptions for abortions: “…to avert a pregnant woman’s death or avoid a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”
“Accordingly, [the law] does not purport to ban all abortions past 20 weeks gestational age. Further, the statute allows for abortions up to and including 20 weeks gestational age. As such, [it] is not a ban on previability abortions.”
It is clear that the mental state of the mother (and father) being forced to possibly carry a dead fetus to term is not taken into consideration. It appears those who penned the law don’t care at all what effect this has on anyone as long as no one has an abortion under any circumstances.
This ban comes on the heels of the law in Arizona that allows doctors the legal right to withhold important, life-threatening information from a pregnant woman for when she might seek an abortion.
Julie Ellen Gelpke, Co-Chairperson of the southeast chapter of National Organization For Women told Addicting Info:
“If these doctors can lie to women and not tell them the fetus could have genetic defects or the mother is at risk of dying in the name of preventing an abortion, why can’t a doctor lie to their male patients and not tell them they have prostate cancer? … You want to shut down Planned Parenthood and deny women of important preventive care while Viagra sales are on the rise.”
After researching and writing this article yesterday, a commenter pointed out that a doctor may induce labor if the fetus dies. This is true and is not considered abortion. The problem lies in the gestation calculation and the fact doctors can lie to patients. The individual doctor would determine the course of action on a case by case basis.
Dr. Paul A. Isaacson, a gynecologist in Phoenix who offers family planning and abortions and is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said the new law would “profoundly affect some of my patients.” Most women seeking later abortions, he said in testimony against the bill last spring, “do so because they have received a diagnosis of a severe fetal anomaly during the course of a wanted pregnancy.” Often, he said, fetal problems cannot be diagnosed before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The new law, he said, would force some women to carry pregnancies to term even when it is clear that the newborn will quickly die, “often at substantial health risks to themselves.”
“This law forces a sick, pregnant woman to wait until she is on the brink of disaster before her doctor can provide her medically appropriate care,” said Dan Pochoda, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Arizona.
Kimberley A. Johnson is the author of The Virgin Diaries and The Spokeswoman for Rock The Slut Vote, an organization standing up and fighting the war on women. Find her on Facebook, Twitter and “like” the Rock The Slut Vote Facebook page