New Arizona Law Requires Doctors to Treat Fetuses ‘Born Alive’ During Abortions

Arizona governor Doug Ducey signed one of the country’s most restrictive abortion laws. Photo: MIKE THEILER/AFP/Getty Images

Texas is far from the only state weighing numerous unusually restrictive anti-abortion laws. Last week, Arizona governor Doug Ducey signed into law a handful of bills that restrict abortion and medical research, including one that requires doctors to do everything in their power to resuscitate an aborted fetus if it’s “born alive.”

The law — which will take effect this summer, according to the Arizona Daily Star — defines a fetus that is “born alive” as one that is breathing, has a heartbeat, or shows “definite movement of voluntary muscles.” If any of these conditions are observed, doctors must see that “all available means and medical skills are used to promote, preserve, and maintain the life of such fetus or embryo.”

The law also mandates that neonatal emergency equipment and trained staff be on hand for any abortion at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from 2013, those types of abortions are rare; 66 percent of abortions are performed before 8 weeks, and 92 percent are before 13 weeks. Planned Parenthood, one of the country’s largest abortion providers, doesn’t perform abortions after 20 weeks.

Doctors who testified during the hearing for the bill said standard practice is to “provide comfort” for the fetus and the mother, and that it would be “cruel” to operate on a fetus if its life can’t be saved. But under the new law, doctors can only stop treatment once they rule that death is imminent. It makes exceptions only in cases when a condition diagnosed before birth “will result, with reasonably certainty, in the death of the unborn child within three months after birth.”

Lawmakers who oppose the law said it takes choice away from doctors and families. “Government does not belong there,” Democratic representative Mitzi Epstein told the Arizona Republic.

New Arizona Abortion Law Is One of the Country’s Harshest