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New AZ law requiring doctors to ask women why they are getting an abortion draws support, criticism

Supporters say it provides access to important data regarding women's health while critics say it's too intrusive

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"Women feel obligated to answer questions about their abortions." Illustration published on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019.

The recently passed AZ Senate Bill 1394 went into effect on Jan. 1 and requires doctors to ask their patients a variety of questions when getting an abortion, including the reason for the abortion.

Other information that doctors must ask for includes the patient's educational background, marital status, and race and ethnicity. 

Women are not required to answer the questions and supporters of the law say it helps government agencies collect important information regarding women's health. 

But opponents of the law said that, because a doctor is asking the questions, women may feel obligated to provide answers if they are unaware of their rights and potentially become discouraged from practicing their right of choice.

David Huff, a junior majoring in political science and biological sciences and the president of ASU Young Democrats, said that the authoritative presence of doctors can inadvertently pressure women to answer the questions.

“When you have a professional coming to you, especially in healthcare, and you’re having a healthcare issue, if they’re asking you a question about it, of course you’re going to be more inclined to answer,” Huff said.

Other critics of the law, such as Catherine Corbett, who is a senior majoring in communications and the president of Planned Parenthood Generation Action at ASU, say that the law is intrusive and subliminally discourages women from seeking abortions.

"It’s really uncomfortable and what (women) want to do with their body is their choice," Corbett said. "Politicians shouldn’t be standing in the doctor’s office with women.”

But groups that support the law said it works to collect data to improve women’s health and provides a way out for women who are dealing with domestic abuse or sex trafficking. 

Republican State Senator Nancy Barto, who introduced the bill into the state Senate, said in an emailed statement reported in an ABC15 article that Arizona’s enhanced reporting law had not been reviewed for several years and was due for an update. 

"The new law ensures that our informed consent laws and other protections for women seeking an abortion have the oversight necessary to ensure these common sense provisions are being followed," the statement said.

The Center for Arizona Policy is an organization that focuses on life, marriage and family, and religious freedom. The organization said they support the new abortion law. 

Cathi Herrod, the president of the Center for Arizona Policy, said that the law is crucial for collecting reliable data in order to better provide for women’s needs. 

“The bill simply collects data on why women are having abortions," Herrod said, adding that the bill is intended to aid women who have been victims of human trafficking or sexual assault and "help her get the help that she needs."

College Republicans United declined to comment for the State Press.

But opponents of the law said that the law would not achieve anything new in regards to collecting data.

Jason Vail Cruz, the sexual violence policy coordinator for the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, said one of the reasons the coalition opposes the bill is because there are already reporting systems in place to ensure the health and safety of women. 

The coalition publicly opposed the law before it was enacted and continues to voice its disapproval now.

“My sense would be that, while it’s valuable to have data on the prevalence of sexual or domestic violence, or sex trafficking, it’s not appropriate to collect it in a situation that traumatizes survivors,” he said.

PPGEN at ASU and Young Dems work closely together and hope to educate students about their rights when it comes to the new law. 

“We did a healthcare forum last semester and I think it would be really important to possibly do something similar, maybe we can even mention (the law) in our Sex-Ed Panel that we’re planning in February," Corbett said. "Just to go over what the rights are and our community’s for women, how it can affect them.”

Corbett said that if someone isn't aware of their rights, or has questions regarding the new law, PPGEN is a group that they can turn to for answers to sexual health questions.

“It’s important for students to be aware that we are a resource they can turn to on campus. We want to be a safe space for them, so they can come to us about sexual health, relationships, and reproductive rights,” she said.

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