NEWSFLASH: Arizona Passes Nation’s Earliest Abortion Ban

Update 4/10/12: Errors in the original post have been corrected; see note at end.

Arizona is the latest state to jump on the 20-week ban-wagon, effectively restricting all late abortions except when a woman’s life is in danger. There is no exception for rape, incest or conditions that make the fetus non-viable.

It seems that all late abortion bans are now required to have some mind-numbing twist in order to compete in the Greatest Anti-Choice State race. Not wanting to be overshadowed by Georgia, Mississippi or Oklahoma, the new Arizona anti-choice ban has not one, not two, not even three, but four twists.

The most novel provision measures the gestational age of the fetus according to the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period (LMP). In the seven existing state bans on abortion after 20 weeks (in Nebraska, Indiana, Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama and Georgia), fetal age is calculated from fertilization, which occurs up to two weeks after LMP.  So, when the Arizona legislature says no abortions after 20 weeks, they really mean about 18 weeks from fertilization.

That makes the Arizona bill the earliest abortion ban in any state in the country. Then there are the other three abortion restrictions attached: (1) doctors can only administer the medical abortion drug RU-486 up to the seventh week of pregnancy, instead of the medically acceptable ninth week; (2) women must receive an ultrasound 24 hours before the procedure; and (3) women must first look at a state-established anti-choice website that will provide lists of abortion health risks, adoption information and photos of fetal development. It’s a war-on-women super-bill!

The law awaits only Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s signature. Although she has yet to publicly stated her support for the bill, she has a strong anti-abortion record.

Update: The original text of this article incorrectly stated that doctors typically approximate pregnancies from the point of fertilization. In fact, gestational age, estimated from the date of the last menstrual period, is the standard used by physicians. However, no previous 20-week abortion ban has used gestational age; all have calculated age from fertilization.

Photo from Flickr user DaveFayram via Creative Commons 3.0.


  1. Tell me how to stop this!!!

    • Vote. Write to her. Call her and voice your complaints. Go to facebook and comment on all of the pages you can. Let her know you’re not taking this lightly.

  2. I’m not sure where this got started (Amanda Marcotte’s piece in RH Reality Check?), but it’s been making the rounds and it’s just wrong. Pregnancy has always been measured from last menstrual period because that’s generally a known date, unlike conception or fertilization. From Planned Parenthood’s website (one of the only feminist sites NOT perpetuating this myth):

    “Pregnancy is measured using “gestational age.” Gestational age starts on the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period (LMP).

    Gestational age can be confusing. Most people think of pregnancy as lasting nine months. And it’s true that a woman is pregnant for about nine months. But because pregnancy is measured from a woman’s last menstrual period — about 3-4 weeks before she is actually pregnant — a full-term pregnancy usually totals about 40 weeks from LMP — roughly 10 months.

    Many women do not remember the exact date of their last menstrual period — that’s OK. The surest way to tell gestational age early in pregnancy is with ultrasound.”

    I’m not sure where the author got the “facts,” like: “Doctors typically approximate pregnancies from the point of fertilization, which is up to two weeks after LMP. Implantation, or when the fertilized egg implants in the uterine wall, usually occurs a week after fertilization—three weeks from LMP,” but that’s just plain wrong, too. From this:

    “No, it doesn’t mean that the law prohibits abortion at 18 weeks. It means 20 weeks. Pregnancy has ALWAYS been calculated from the 1rst day of the last menstrual period. Always, always, always. When we do an ultrasound, we still use that convention. Perhaps it seems odd to non-obstetrical folks, however, since the last day of the period can be inaccurate (do you use flow? spotting? one spot of blood?), as can date of ejaculation (what if you have sex 3 days in a row?), and date of ovulation (how would you know that?), and the fact that fertilization takes 24-48 hours, the 1rst date of the last menstrual period is the only accurate date. Every other state law uses the last menstrual period (as does every obstetrical textbook) because that is the way we calculate gestational age.”

    • You might be right (you probably are) but I think the point is that it’s earlier in regards to abortion law. If in the other states the term is calculated from fertilisation, then this one’s earlier.

    • fahdutnik says:

      Erin, the OB Drs I worked for added 7 days from the first day of LMP then counted back 3 months, that gave us the due date.

  3. I’m no doctor, but isn’t dating the age of a fetus from the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period the gynecological standard? Because there’s no good way to tell when the pregnancy actually started? There are so many other things wrong with this bill, but I don’t think the medical standard is one of them.

  4. Margaret says:

    If Arizona legislators want to protect life even before fertilization actually occurs, then maybe they should also protect individual living reproductive cells. How about an “Every sperm a person” bill under which an act of “spilling one’s seed” during any non-procreative sexual act would be tantamount to abortion and subject to legal sanctions.

    • Mysterious Stranger says:

      You know, Magaret, some Christians see the Biblical story of Onan as proof that “spilling one’s seed” is a sin.

      (Actually, “Spilling” wasn’t the sin, it was that Onan refused to honor his brother’s dying wish.)

      Just sayin’

    • Arlene Z says:

      Yes, what’s good for the goose …

  5. Just found out I’m pregnant and I happen to live in Arizona. After reading this, I am moving my care and planning my delivery in California.

  6. All women should riot. Why are we so tepid on these offensive, repressive, misogynistic acts of men in nice suites???

  7. Why are we women attacked and have to pay the price when men are 50% responsible, but do not have to face agonizing decisions, nor their bodies and human dignity are affected?

  8. Mysterious Stranger says:

    Bummer… I live in Arizona.

  9. chrystal says:

    I fail to see what the problem is. 20 weeks is half way through your pregnancy. When we get to 20 weeks~ we are getting days away from a viable fetus. You find out you are pregnant at 6-8 weeks at the latest. If you don’t want a kid~ that is the time to act.

    When I was raped~ I was prepared to have an immediate abortion if pregnancy happened. Who let’s the fetus develop so far before killing it? You b****s are crazy.

    If it takes you 20 weeks to make up your freaking mind~ you probably don’t have the stomach for abortion or parenthood and you should be looking into adoption.

    This isn’t about taking our rights away. Its drawing a distinction between cruel and acceptable as a society.
    You want to vaccuum your baby out? Do it sooner rather than later. There~ problem solved.

    • It’s entirely possible to discover a pregnancy after 6-8 weeks, such as if you are on the pill and continue to spot and have no morning sickness, tenderness, etc. Development time isn’t always deliberate.
      Good for you if you were able to determine pregnancy early on, but this is not the case for all women. Please do not project your experience onto all others.

    • What about a young girl who was raped and doesn’t speak up soon enough or doesn’t understand that what happened to her can make a baby. I agree with you that it should be done sooner, but ultimately it should be between a woman and her doctor.

    • “Get an Abortion as soon as possible,” I agree to that, but with “mandatory waiting periods,” “required parental consents,” no Required Sex Ed (How else are young women (and men) suppose to know when women get PREGNANT or how they can become PREGNANT! It’s not just as easy as Instinct.), States seemingly trying to get rid of every Abortion Clinic with Unnecessary Policies when the Option of a Legal Abortion should be made Easily Available to women, so they can, for instance, AFFORD an EARLY ABORTION.

      But no, Women are all just a bunch of Crazy B****S to you, Misogynists.

  10. Lynne yarbrough says:

    Good for Arizona! It’s about time that someone stood up and did the right thing! I bet the majority of abortions at this point are not from rape or invest.

  11. Last time I checked the government worked for us!!!! They are getting way to comfortable!!! Women’s RIGHTS!!! And not to sound terrible but who are going to pay for these children and family’s when they simply can’t afford too?? The tax payers as usual???

  12. If I were in the jungle and had a baby accidentally and was having a hard enough time surviving on my own, I’d leave that baby on a rock!!! And make grunting noises as I disappear into the thick of the jungle in my loincloth.

    This is all more of a power struggle of religion/culture than anything else, just like the ideas of Hitler vs. other people’s ideas. The main point is to not let one gain so much power over the others that it takes over. Just don’t let one collective grow too large. If our passion can lie in that rather than becoming naturally biased in each of the subjects by themselves – such as abortion – then maybe peace and freedom would be most strongly upheld.


  13. lkbridges says:

    What’s the difference in an abortion and child abuse/death of an unwanted child?
    Why not make it mandatory that all men have a vasectomy by a certain age? that wont happen,yet some are controlling women’s bodies regardless of the situation.Most insurance companies pay for viagra or a similar med,but will not cover the cost of birth control?something is terribly wrong with this picture.time seems to be in reverse as in “keep em barefoot and pregnant” and no voting for women.this is all wrong.How many families will be broken up by an unwanted pregnancy or rape?A lot of men will not believe their spouse was raped.Rape changes a whole family not just the person involved. Women should have control over their own body without anyone else’s permission.I thought this was a free from what? People wake up.Maybe you can be the one to take in all the children from unplanned pregnancies!I doubt it.

Speak Your Mind


Error, no Ad ID set! Check your syntax!