Republicans in Arizona and Florida approve draconian abortion bans

Republicans in Arizona and Florida approve draconian abortion bans
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaking at the 2021 Student Action Summit, hosted by Turning Point USA at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Florida, Gage Skidmore

In the last 24 hours, Republican lawmakers in Arizona and Florida have approved bills that would dramatically curtail access to abortion and criminalize doctors performing the procedure.

On Wednesday, the GOP-controlled Arizona State Senate voted to outlaw abortions after 15 weeks. Senate Bill 15 – sponsored by Republican State Senator Nancy Barto (District 15) – “prohibits a physician from performing an abortion on an unborn human being whose probable gestational age is determined to be greater than 15 weeks, except in the case of a medical emergency.”

SB 15 “classifies, as a class 6 felony, a physician's intentional or knowing violation of the prohibition on abortions past 15 weeks gestational age” and “states that a physician who intentionally or knowingly violates the prohibition on abortions past 15 weeks gestational age commits an act of unprofessional conduct and is subject to suspension or revocation of their license to practice medicine.”

Although SB 15 does not hold patients legally liable for terminating a pregnancy, the law requires doctors to report each procedure to the state. And it imposes a $10,000 fine for filing false reports or failing to do so at all.

Additionally, SB 15 “defines human being as an individual member of the species homo sapiens, from and after the point of conception” and ‘’defines major bodily function as functions of the immune system, normal cell growth and digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine and reproductive functions.”

SB 15 does allow exceptions to save the life and safety of the mother.

“The state has an obligation to protect life, and that is what this bill is about,” Barto said during a floor debate. “A 15-week-old baby in the womb has a fully formed nose, lips, eyelids, they suck their thumbs. They feel pain. That’s what this bill is about.”

Democrats, who are in the minority, believe that SB 15 creates unnecessary health care hurdles and will disproportionately affect poor and minority communities.

Across the country in Florida, meanwhile, Republicans in the State House of Representatives passed a similar bill to Arizona’s SB 15 – House Bill 5 – which outlaws all abortions "if the physician determines the gestational age of the fetus is more than 15 weeks."

But HB 5 – put forth by the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee – is even stricter than its Western counterpart. It contains no exceptions for victims of rape, incest, or human trafficking. Abortions may be performed if the mother’s life is in immediate danger, but HB 5 requires the consent of two supervising physicians in those instances.

And, like SB 15, HB 5 classifies performing an abortion beyond 15 weeks as a felony.

Two of the Republicans who cosponsored HB 5 defended the law.

"I think it's a great bill. I think it's a good step forward. I actually approve of and support an even pro-life bill. But this is a really good step forward and it's going to save the lives of unborn children," State Representative Anthony Sabatini (R-District 32) said.

"Being a parent even when you want your child is fundamentally a sacrifice. But it is a privilege. It is a gift that God has given us all. It is the highest gift that he can give us," State Representative Randy Fine (R-District 53) added. "You've got two sets of rights that are fundamentally in conflict. You've got the right of a woman to do what she wants with her body. And you have the right of a baby to exist. And both of these rights cannot exist at the same time."

On the other side of the aisle, Democratic State Representative Carlos Smith (District 49) argued that HB 5 and laws like it “rob women and people of the freedom to make their own decisions.”

State Representative Anna Eskamani (D-District 47) believes that the GOP is working tirelessly to convince the United States Supreme Court to overturn Roe versus Wade, which for half a century has guaranteed access to abortion as a constitutional right.

Last month, the High Court’s right-wing majority allowed Texas’s six-week abortion ban to remain in effect. The Court is slated to deliver a ruling this summer on the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis – both of whom are Republicans – are expected to sign the restrictions into law once they reach their respective desks.

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