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Ariz. Considers Allowing Doctors To Not Tell Women Their Lives Are In Danger

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An influential social conservative group is behind the latest controversial anti-abortion measure in Arizona.

CREDIT: istockphoto

The Arizona state Senate passed a bill recently that would allow doctors to withhold information from patients in order to prevent abortions.

The “Wrongful Birth, Wrongful Life” legislation prohibits a doctor from being sued if they do not inform women about prenatal problems that makes it more likely for a woman to decide to have an abortion. The legislation, which advanced on March 6, was based on a proposal by the conservative Center for Arizona Policy, a group that has a history of pushing for increased abortion regulations and against marriage equality measures.

The “Wrongful Birth” bill was sponsored by state Sen. Nancy Barto, a Phoenix Republican named 2011 lawmaker of the year by the national conservative group American Legislative Exchange Council. Like the Center for Arizona Policy, ALEC presents numerous pieces of model legislation to state legislations on a regular basis.

“When I first heard of this issue, I couldn't believe that these lawsuits are actually happening,” Barto told KTAR in February. “That some couples, after they give birth to their child that has a disability, would claim that the child should not have been born, and would sue to get damages.”

Gary Marchant, an Arizona State University law professor, said many cases where a doctor is implicated in a “Wrongful Birth” lawsuit involves them failing to share or properly communicate the results of prenatal screenings or risk factors to parents.

House Democrats in Arizona are already speaking out against the bill saying it potentially endangers women’s lives.

“I cannot think of a time that it is right to withhold information from a patient that would cause them pain or death,” Rep. Matt Heinz, a Tucson Democrat and a physician, told The Huffington Post. “That is not consistent with the Hippocratic Oath.”

The Center for Arizona Policy also has a number of their other model bills moving through the state legislature. They’re currently pushing legislation in the state that bans funding for Planned Parenthood, allows any employer to deny coverage of contraception in health insurance plans, and increased regulation of female eggs and in-vitro fertilization. They’ve also presented a mandatory ultrasound bill not unlike one in Virginia that drew national criticism.

In 2010,  Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) called them the most powerful lobby in the state. "They have controlled the Legislature for years, but in the past, we had Janet Napolitano," Sinema said at the time.

After Napolitano was tapped by President Obama to leave her role as Arizona governor to head the Department of Homeland Security, the Center for Arizona Policy was successful in getting nine anti-abortion measures signed into law in 2009.

Pennsylvania, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Idaho, Indiana, Missouri, Minnesota and North Carolina all have similar “Wrongful Birth” laws in place. Kansas proposed a similar bill in February.

The Arizona bill now moves on the state House.

Tyler Kingkade is a staff writer with Campus Progress. Keep up with him on Twitter @tylerkingkade.

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