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.


Lauren Barbato is a writer who enjoys focusing on the intersection of the arts and social justice. As a journalist, she has contributed to Ms., the Women's Media Center, IndieWire, MovieMaker Magazine and many others. She holds a B.F.A. degree in screenwriting from the University of Southern California. Follow her on Twitter @lauren_barbato.