OPINION: Arizona’s One-Size-Fits-All Abortion Law is Cruel

Photo courtesy Rep. Judy Schwiebert

By Judy Schwiebert

June 6, 2023

Arizona law now bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, except in extreme medical emergencies. This ban, passed just last year in the Republican-held legislature, disrespects the autonomy of women and families who must make wrenching decisions about serious complications later in pregnancy.

I know because of my own family’s experience.

My son and daughter-in-law struggled to have a child for years, so they were thrilled when they finally got pregnant. But after the first four months, the doctors discovered the fetus was developing without a complete skull or brain. While the fetus could likely continue to live in the womb, it would not live past birth.

Harsher Laws Hurt Families

They were devastated. But thankfully, at the time, no state legislator was looking over their shoulder to shame, judge, fine, or even jail them or their doctors in this most personal medical situation. They needed an abortion, and they were able to receive that vital healthcare. But it’s something no longer available in Arizona to families in heartbreaking situations like this. 

When they eventually did have a viable pregnancy, their daughter was born.

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June, many states—including Arizona—have enacted abortion prohibitions that now make it impossible for families like my son and daughter-in-law to obtain appropriate and necessary medical care. 

Arizona families must now travel out of state to receive the life-affirming medical care they need. When that is not feasible, the consequences can be shattering.

Health Bans Restrict Freedoms

This is playing out in high-profile incidents across the country. Other states have very similar laws to Arizona, and it has become catastrophic. Under Florida’s 15-week ban, Deborah Dorbert and her husband learned halfway through her pregnancy that the fetus had Potter syndrome, inhibiting kidney development. If the pregnancy were carried to term, the infant’s life expectancy would have been no more than two hours. 

Even though Florida’s law permits abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities, the Dorberts reported that doctors would not perform an abortion as long as the fetal heart continued to beat. Deborah Dorbert was forced to carry the pregnancy to the 37th week when labor was induced. Death occurred within 90 minutes, after a painful struggle. 

What must this have been like for the Dorberts and the family members who were there to support them? 

Yet this is the heartbreaking scenario forced on Arizona families by my Republican colleagues in the state legislature.  No politician can or should know the details of every family’s pregnancy.  Republicans are demanding a  one-size-fits-all policy for the very complicated healthcare needs during pregnancy for hundreds of thousands of families.

The freedom to make our own most deeply personal decisions about our bodies and lives is at the very foundation of our nation’s greatness. State legislators should not be usurping that freedom by telling others what is right for them in what is often a very complicated situation.

By the way, the name my son and daughter-in-law chose for their daughter—“Kaira”—means “in God’s time.”

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