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Arizona's 'born alive' bill moves forward after testimony

Published: Thursday, February 16, 2023 - 1:23pm

Arizona lawmakers heard testimony Tuesday for a bill that would require physicians to do everything possible to save the life of a baby born alive during an abortion.

Among other things, Senate Bill 1600 requires facilities to provide the reason an abortion was performed, including those deemed medically necessary for the mother or child. It also stipulates physicians do everything possible to save the life of the baby’s, if it's born alive during an abortion. 

Many of these stipulations are already part of Arizona law. If passed, the bill would extended existing law to require any medical professional present during delivery provide care. Anyone who witnesses a violation of that requirement would be mandated to report it to law enforcement. Medical professionals who violate the law could face a felony charge or civil lawsuit.

Under the bill current text, facilities that perform abortions must submit reports on the circumstances surrounding the abortion, including the woman’s age, race or ethnicity, and educational background. It also states that any infant "born alive, including during the course of an abortion, shall be treated as a legal person," with the same rights to "medically appropriate and reasonable care" and a death certificate. It also states that parents have the right to refuse care in cases where their infant does not have a chance of surviving.

In testimony Tuesday, Bethany Miller, with the Center for Arizona Policy, told lawmakers the new bill would expand protections for newborns.

"Even babies born early, babies diagnosed with major and severe genetic congenital abnormalities with a high probability of death," she said. 

The committee also heard from Nicole Cestaro, who said her daughter was born last May with a chromosomal condition called trisomy 18, which causes severe developmental delays and is often fatal. Cestaro said her daughter died a week after being born, and deserved to be cared for by her doctors. 

“She was loved, she was wanted, her life held immeasurable value,” she said.

But as Arizona Senator Eva Burch, an emergency nurse who represents Mesa, pointed out, current Arizona law already mandates care for newborns. She said forcing medical intervention to happen in situations when a baby has no chance of survival is not the solution. 

"That’s aggravating an already a traumatizing situation. Sometimes those moments are the only moments a family has to be able to take that in and grieve," she said.

Burch was one of three lawmakers who voted against moving the bill forward. The committee passed the measure with a 4-3 vote along party lines. 

Brittany Fonteno, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, argues the bill stokes fear for patients and physicians charged with their care. 

"This is not about families, this is not about protecting pregnant people, this is really a vehicle for trying to instate fetal personhood, with the ultimate objective of banning abortion in Arizona," she said. 

Current Arizona law allows abortion up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. Last month, a federal judge ruled another Arizona law banning physicians from performing abortions at any stage of pregnancy due to genetic abnormalities was enforceable. 

PoliticsFronteras Abortion