There has been a lot of chatter in the past few weeks about Arizona’s latest attempt to pass abortion legislation. HB 2036, which just passed in the House and is headed to Governor Jan Brewer’s desk, declares that the age of a fetus be “calculated from the last day of the first menstrual period of the pregnant woman,” and “if the probable gestational age of the unborn child has been determined to be at least twenty weeks,” abortion is not allowed.
Everyone is freaking out over this, calling it incredibly restrictive, harsh, etc. And before you think I’m on drugs and am about to endorse this bill, let me assure you I AM NOT; but the reason I have not posted anything about it until now is because I wasn’t 100% sure of all the facts. Let me explain my issues with the uproar:
The biggest problem everyone has is that dating a pregnancy from the last day of a woman’s period could mean that a doctor considers a fetus up to two weeks older than it actually is. Yes, technically it could mean that you are considered pregnant before you are actually pregnant, and yes, it potentially decreases the amount of time you are able to legally obtain an abortion. But what gave me pause before I flew into my typical frenzy was the nagging question: “Well how does everyone ELSE calculate gestational age?” Every article I read raged on and on about how restrictive this method was, but no one explained how it should actually be done. So I hung out, waited for the dust to settle, and found my answer. I’ll quote OB/GYN Dr. Jen Gunter:
“Pregnancy has ALWAYS been calculated from the [first] day of the last menstrual period. Always, always, always. When we do an ultrasound, we still use that convention…the [first] date of the last menstrual period is the only accurate date. Every other state law uses the last menstrual period…because that is the way we calculate gestational age.”
So there you have it. Perhaps it’s the fact that Arizona is so boldly calling attention to the method, or people just didn’t take a second to think about it, but how the bill determines fetal age is exactly how any doctor would.
Now let me point out that I obviously still detest this bill, and you should too; but don’t get yourself into a tizzy over the 18 week thing, because you’re fighting a losing battle. Never fear, however, as Arizona Republicans are still providing you with plenty of reasons to despise them. Here are the reasons you SHOULD hate this bill:
- Abortion bans at 20 weeks is still ridiculous for so many reasons (see my previous post for details)
- Fetuses (can I start saying fetii?) are falsely considered to be able to feel pain at 20 weeks (another thing I have covered)
- The bill provides exceptions for the mother’s health, but not the health of the fetus (or rape)
- The bill requires an ultrasound
- The doctor must offer to show the woman the ultrasound image; here is a very moving story about a woman who was forced to sit through an ultrasound before her abortion and how awful of an idea that is
- The doctor must provide information to the woman about adoption as an alternative
- There is a 24 hour waiting period (because getting an abortion is like shopping for a car; we need the state to force us to take extra time to think about it)
- It’s based upon false assumptions that there are severe psychological and mental health risks to abortions, when I have previously stated that early abortions are among the safest medical procedures
- It violates the Supreme Court declaration, plain and simple. Seriously, why are we still arguing about this? I thought the Supreme Court had ultimate authority to get everyone to STFU.
And most of all, really, it’s just another example of the Republicans trying to force themselves into places they don’t belong. State Representative Matt Heinz (D-Tucson) hit the nail on the head: “How can a judge determine gestational age?…If medical science can only determine gestational age to within 10-14 days, how can a superior court judge do it?”
This is a medical issue, NOT a political one. Until medical school is required for all politicians, State Representatives have absolutely NO business making medical decisions for us. It’s as simple as that, and yet it seems to be something that just does not get through to them. Heinz is a doctor, by the way. How he can go to work every day without completely losing it is beyond me. I think I am going to write him a love letter.
Honorable Mentions in Insanity:
I really couldn’t leave out mentions of the other two bills that passed the Arizona House along with HB 2036:
- The Wrongful Birth, Wrongful Life Bill, that would protect doctors from malpractice suits if they purposefully withhold information about a fetus that they believe would lead to that fetus being aborted
- SB 1009, which requires educators to promote adoption and not abortion when the issue of an unwanted pregnancy comes up during a sex ed class