Arizona outlaws abortion after 15 weeks as Supreme Court considers similar Mississippi ban

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Since the Supreme Court agreed to consider Mississippi's ban, multiple states have passed previability bans.

On March 30, Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law a ban on abortions after 15 weeks' gestation. The state now joins others that appear to have been emboldened by the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that allowed Texas' six-week ban to stand as it also considers a 15-week ban in Mississippi.

Arizona's law is a previability ban: It prohibits all abortions before the time at which a fetus can survive outside the womb. Despite conservative claims to the contrary, viability generally doesn't happen until about 24 weeks into a pregnancy. Under current law, such previability bans are unconstitutional, period: The Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade bars states from banning abortion prior to viability. 

Arizona abortion law is particularly restrictive. First, there are no exceptions to the 15-week ban, except in the case of medical emergencies that threaten the health or life of the patient, not even in the case of rape or incest. If a pregnant person learns their fetus is not viable, they still can't get an abortion after 15 weeks. Next, the state already makes getting an abortion hard. There's a mandatory 24-hour waiting period; doctors are prohibited from using telemedicine to prescribe medication abortion pills; and no health plan offered through the state insurance exchange can cover abortions. Minors need either to obtain approval from their parents or to go before a judge if they need an abortion. 

All of these restrictions can delay abortion care, potentially pushing people past that 15-week mark. Couple this with the fact that one in three people do not know they're pregnant until after six weeks' gestation, and there remains very little time for people to make arrangements to obtain an abortion. This is especially true if one has to raise money to obtain the abortion. Abortion funds, which provide direct support to people needing abortions, are completely underfunded. In 2020, even before this latest spate of bans took place, the National Network of Abortion Funds said it was only able to serve 45,000 people out of the 230,000 who called needing help. 

Arizona isn't the only state taking this step. Since the Supreme Court agreed to consider Mississippi's ban, multiple states have passed previability bans in anticipation of a decision in the Mississippi case that would gut the viability framework of Roe. Florida now has a 15-week ban, and Idaho has a six-week ban.

Without allowing any debate, the Oklahoma House passed a complete ban on April 5 that would make performing an abortion a felony. The Senate has already approved it, and the state's GOP governor, Kevin Stitt, who opposes abortion, has previously said he'd sign any anti-abortion bills that crossed his desk. Many other states have trigger laws that would ban abortion entirely, to go into effect immediately if Roe were overturned.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.