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Arizona Senate panel approves bill that bans abortions for Down syndrome

The measure on genetic abnormality was opposed by all Democrats on the panel and will now go before the entire Senate.

An Arizona Senate panel has approved a measure that bans medical providers from performing an abortion when a fetus has a genetic abnormality such as Down syndrome.

A Republican-majority state Senate panel on Thursday approved SB 1457, which includes several anti-abortion provisions. Arizona is among several states attempting to enact abortion regulations as Roe v. Wade's future remains uncertain with a sharply conservative Supreme Court.

In the 2021 state legislative session, more than 150 anti-abortion bills have been filed or introduced, according to Planned Parenthood Action Fund. More than 40 percent of those measures are bans, including outlawing access at certain stages in pregnancy or circumstances.

Republican state Sen. Nancy Barto, who sponsored SB 1457, said that she was moved to take action because she is “deeply saddened” when a fetus with a genetic abnormality is discriminated against.

“I am proud to live in a state that values life — all life,” Barto said. “That means we must make these critical fixes to our laws to protect the most vulnerable among us.”

Center for Arizona Policy president Cathi Herrod applauded lawmakers for moving the legislation forward.

“SB 1457 epitomizes the commitment to protect the lives of the preborn and the well-being and safety of their mothers; it clarifies some existing laws and codifies additional common-sense laws affirming the value of all human life,” Herrod said.

The state Senate panel voted in favor of the bill this week, and advocates on both sides of the issue believe the measure will soon go to the Senate floor, where it's expected to pass.

Under the measure, doctors who terminate a pregnancy involving a fetal abnormality could face a Class 3 felony and prison time. The only exception to the rule is in the case of a medical emergency.

The proposal requires that fetal remains be buried or cremated, grants civil rights to the unborn and allows the father to bring a civil action on behalf of the fetus.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee all opposed the measure, which they said intrudes on a woman’s right to make health decisions in consultation with her doctor.

“This bill targets women who have a fetal abnormality of some type, and these decisions are made after a pretty long and emotional process. To throw this issue into the cauldron of Arizona politics is just unfortunate,” said Democratic state Sen. Kirsten Engel, who opposed the bill.

Engel said the legislation would force pregnant people to travel out of state to get care, making it more difficult for many to obtain abortion services.

Marilyn Rodriguez of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona said the bill will further restrict access in a state that has adopted many anti-abortion laws.

Arizona requires pregnant people to undergo state-mandated counseling, obtain an ultrasound and wait 24 hours before having an abortion. The use of telemedicine to administer medication abortion is prohibited, and minors must have parental consent for services.

“This bill is a cruel attempt to yet again limit abortion, this time by targeting families who seek this option after learning their fetus has developed a disability,” Rodriguez said.