On March 30, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a 15-week abortion ban into law, alongside a plethora of other bills attacking bodily autonomy. Not only will the new law harm people seeking abortions, but it threatens current and future health care workers as well.
Senate Bill 1164, sponsored by Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, mimics a piece of legislation from Mississippi by outlawing abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest.
A substantial percentage of abortion patients are college-aged young people, meaning the law will directly impact students in Arizona. For a young person who may be balancing personal needs, academics and work, an unplanned pregnancy would have an immense impact on their life.
Making the choice to have an abortion is deeply personal to each individual. Their doctors are meant to be sources of expertise and advice. Lawmakers are forcing themselves into the conversation and dehumanizing people in that personal process.
In addition to harming people seeking abortions, the law will restrict the ability of doctors to make informed decisions with patients. Knowingly performing an abortion for a patient past the 15-week mark would have physicians facing a class six felony charge, as well as having their license to practice revoked or suspended, according to the bill.
"This is a matter for the patient to decide upon with the guidance of a team of trusted medical professionals and allies, not lawmakers acting in their own self-interest," said Sarah Mathias, an outreach intern for the Women's Coalition and junior studying biological sciences.
"As a prospective health care professional, I would not feel comfortable or safe working in Arizona knowing that there are lawmakers who believe imprisonment for providing abortion or gender-affirming treatment is justified," Mathias said.
For students on a pre-med track and planning to work in health care, laws like these, which criminalize the responsibilities inherent to their future careers, will create dangerous working conditions. Health care workers should be able to feel safe and supported while caring for people. They shouldn't be targets for performing procedures that their patients feel is best for their bodies.
"Arizona already has a serious OB-GYN shortage because of attacks like these and the passing of these bills will further criminalize the doctor-patient relationship," said Rebecca Kittridge, a member of Planned Parenthood Generation Action at ASU and junior studying psychology and justice studies.
These shortages and a lack of widespread residency positions in Arizona might have already been factors preventing students from wanting to stay in the state for medical school and their careers. If this wasn’t enough, the fact that providing a specific type of care to a patient could cause them to lose their license or even be imprisoned will definitely push many to study and work elsewhere.
"Personal liberties are being thrown out the window," Kittridge said. "This is going to affect people at all levels."
With many students already struggling to make ends meet, few would be able to afford the time and costs of traveling to receive care. It's possible that few doctors would want to risk their livelihoods by providing abortion care in spite of the law. By taking away their options, Ducey and the Arizona Legislature are robbing people of the future they may want for themselves.
"Abortion is always going to happen. The question is just whether it is going to be safe and whether only wealthy, white women will have access to reproductive healthcare because they can afford to travel out of state to get an abortion if they need it," Kittridge said.
As this dangerous bill becomes law, we must take every opportunity to support and protect peoples' rights to make decisions about their own bodies.
Editor's note: The opinions presented in this column are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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