Patients living in Arizona and seeking to terminate a pregnancy are now being probed about their decision.
Is the abortion elective or for health concerns? Was the pregnancy a result of rape or incest? Abortion seekers will also be asked about whether they are being coerced into it, and if they are sex trafficking or domestic violence survivors. Providers are required to ask patients about all of this after a new law, expanding upon existing statutes, went into effect on Tuesday.
The law, however, doesn’t require patients to answer these questions in order to have the procedure.
The Center for Arizona Policy, which helped craft the legislation, told Arizona Capitol Times the reporting requirements help the Health Department “monitor the long-term changes in overall incidence of abortion in Arizona,” adding “[t]his information helps understand why abortion exists.” But as ThinkProgress’ Elham Khatami reported in April, the policy amounts to shaming people for deciding to have an abortion.
Policies that aim to shame don’t work. The anti-abortion movement got nine states, including Arizona, to implement laws requiring abortion providers to offer patients the opportunity to view the ultrasound, thinking doing so could influence the patients’ decisions. A recent study published the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found ultrasounds didn’t dissuade the overwhelming majority of pregnant people from having abortions. When patients were certain of their decision going into it, they had abortions at about the same rate as people who hadn’t seen these images.
Planned Parenthood Arizona called the new law unnecessary because the provider already has sensitivity training, particularly for sexual assault survivors or victims of sex trafficking, telling Arizona Capitol Times, “Our providers, if they have any suspicion whatsoever, provide information and referral to folks.”
What’s more is Arizona lawmakers almost had providers ask patients even more intrusive questions. The original proposal wanted doctors to ask patients if they were seeking abortions due to economic or relationship reasons — or perhaps the would-be-father had an affair?
Providers will also be bombarded with more paperwork. They’ll have to document the number of people who they provided with “informed consent” information 24 hours in advance, the nature of the procedure, and the number of ultrasound and “fetal heartbeat” services provided.
Fifteen states, including Arizona, adopted 27 new restrictions on abortion and family planning in 2018, according to a new Guttmacher Institute report. That said, 2018 marked the first time in recent years that proactive laws expanding family planning access outpaced regressive ones.
The Guttmacher Institute also found that state legislatures introduced at least 17 bills restricting abortion last month, before the new legislatures were even sworn in. A number of them were “fetal heartbeat” bills, which ban abortion at the time a “heartbeat” can be detected.