Women in Arizona will now be asked to state the reason for their abortions, thanks to a new law that took effect on January 1. Senate Bill 1394 requires abortionists to ask each woman the specific reason for her abortion, running down a list of questions that include whether the abortion is elective or for any number of medical conditions. Other questions include whether the abortion is being sought because the pregnancy is due to rape or incest, if the woman is being coerced into the abortion, and whether or not she’s the victim of sex trafficking or domestic violence. While these questions are all mandatory, women may still decline to answer. All of the information will be used for data purposes, but it can also help women in distress if any of the women reveal that they were raped or are victims of domestic violence or sex trafficking. In those cases, the abortionist is required by law to provide resources that can help these women.
The new series of questions updates a previous law, in which women were asked an open-ended question if the abortion was elective or due to health reasons. While abortionists are also required to ask each woman’s age, race, educational background, and marital status, no identifying information will be collected. But the bill saw strong opposition from abortion proponents, who said that the questions will make the abortion process more cumbersome and intimidating. “We also think question after question after question for patients is very shaming, or can be,” said Jody Liggett, spokeswomen for Arizona Planned Parenthood, adding that Planned Parenthood will be encouraging all its patients to decline to answer the questions. “You can bet that at Planned Parenthood we will be letting our patients know [that they can decline to answer] right up front.”
The bill was introduced by Republican Senator Nancy Barto, who reiterated her belief that the questions will help victims of sex trafficking or domestic violence. “We took the best practices from other states and applied them in Arizona and added critical protections for women who are victims of sex trafficking,” she said in a statement to ABC15. “These women are often coerced into having abortions by their captors, so ensuring they have an escape avenue when they come to an abortion clinic is an important provision in the bill.” The fact that Planned Parenthood has stated that it intends to do all it can not to cooperate is telling.
The controversial bill was crafted in part by the pro-life Center for Arizona Policy. Michael Clark, general counsel for the organization, applauds the new law as a way for the health department to gather more comprehensive information. “This information helps understand why abortion exists, what are the motivating factors going on, why it’s going up and down,” he said.