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BILLS THREATEN ABORTION CARE

Published: | Updated: 06.23.09

By Bryan Howard

All too often, lawmakers discuss abortion without considering the 10,000 Arizona women who make the difficult decision to end a pregnancy each year.  The backers of an anti-abortion bill that has moved through the Arizona House of Representatives and is now in the Senate, appear to have made the same mistake:  writing a law without talking to the affected women and their health care providers.  Despite energetic statements to the contrary, House Bill 2564 / Senate Bill 1206 will pose dire consequences for thousands of Arizona women.

If either of these bills becomes law, abortion care will only remain in three of ten Arizona communities creating an undue burden on rural and poor women who need access to care. It will also increase expenses and medical risks as a result of delays caused by a mandated 24-hour waiting period. Likewise, these requirements are especially burdensome to women who may not be able to take extra days off from work, travel long distances, or find appropriate childcare while they are away from home.  A woman coming from Yuma County would spend an average $523.08 in additional costs since services will not be available in her community.

The bill requires health care providers to state that women considering abortion will have health care and other safety-net services from the state.  As we all know, the legislature has just adopted a budget which radically shrinks and even eliminates the very services this law says are guaranteed.  To influence women’s decisions with deceptive information isn’t just dishonest, it’s cruel.

We at Planned Parenthood Arizona understand better than most the conflicting values and emotions that surface when women face unplanned pregnancy.  That’s why we focus our time and energy on prevention-oriented services like birth control and breast cancer detection.  No Arizona organization does more to prevent unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

So, it is particularly disheartening when abortion opponents simultaneously oppose good legislation that would actually protect Arizonans.  House Bill 2544, which Planned Parenthood supports, requires our schools to provide comprehensive, abstinence-based sex education.  The very same voices who are endangering abortion care have worked equally hard to make sure HB 2544 doesn’t get a hearing – and it hasn’t.

We have asked to talk with the Governor as well as the House and Senate leaders about these issues.  Only House Speaker Adams was courteous or curious enough to send a staff member to meet with us.  Governor Brewer in particular has worked doubly hard to avoid a meeting.

Some cynics see this whole situation as “politics as usual.”  In 2007, “politics as usual” led to 40 teens becoming pregnant every day, and nearly 9,500 teens developing sexually transmitted infections.  Planned Parenthood thinks it is long overdue to have an honest conversation about the real risks Arizona women face – such as our state’s very low rate of prenatal care.  Until someone “on the other side” agrees, we will put more Arizona women, men and young people in harms way.

Is that really what you want from your government?

Bryan Howard is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, a nonprofit organization that has provided reproductive health care and education statewide for 75 years. Howard has been a member of the Governor’s Commission on Women and Children’s Health since 2002.

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