Arizona Senate advances anti-abortion legislation

The Arizona Senate on Feb. 25 advanced a measure to ban abortions because of genetic abnormalities as the Republican-controlled Legislature embraces anti-abortion legislation that may stand a better chance of withstanding a challenge now that the U.S. Supreme Court has moved to the right.

In addition to banning abortions because of fetal disabilities, the bill would make it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion for that reason and allow a father or maternal grandparents to sue on behalf of the fetus. It also would prohibit school, college and university employees from providing abortion referrals and require that fetal remains be buried or cremated. Pharmacies would be prohibited from providing abortion-inducing medications through the mail.

The Senate gave the measure, SB1457, preliminary approval on Wednesday. It still needs a final vote in the coming days before going to the House.

Republican Sen. Nancy Barto of Phoenix said her proposed bill protects the most vulnerable and restores dignity to aborted fetuses by requiring that they be buried or cremated. It also repeals an old law allowing women to be charged for seeking an abortion, which Barto said was needed in case the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 decision that found women have a constitutional right to seek an abortion.

"There are incredible numbers of people that appreciate those children that have come into the world with a genetic abnormality like Down (syndrome) or other serious issues that are genetic," said Sen. Barto. "And once they were born, they’ve meant so much to their families, to the world. They’ve gone on to live productive, wonderful lives. That’s what we’re protecting here."

Abortion-rights advocates say the bill is an unconstitutional intrusion into a woman’s right to have an abortion before a fetus is viable. A physician testified that it would chill the First Amendment rights of doctors to honestly provide medical advice to their patients.

Democrats said the Legislature should be focused on providing support for families with disabled children, not interfering with a woman’s choice about whether to end a pregnancy.

"I’m extremely opposed to any one of us legislators imposing our faith on everybody else and on my family," said Sen. Sally Ann Gonzales, a Democrat from Tucson. "We should not be doing this."

Continuing Coverage:

Get breaking news alerts in the FREE FOX 10 News app. Download for Apple iOS or Android.