Photo by Howard Fischer, for the Miner.
PHOENIX – State senators voted Thursday to require women be asked more specific questions before terminating a pregnancy over the objections of one lawmaker who said "the Catholic Church does not need to know why I am getting an abortion.''
Existing law contains an open-ended question that health care providers are supposed to ask. But Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, said that doesn't provide sufficient information, at least not in a form where it can be classified into categories and published in annual reports by the Department of Health Services.
SB 1394, approved on an 18-12 vote, would instead require doctors to run down a checklist of possible reasons the woman wants an abortion, including economic issues, rape, incest, relationship issues and even that a woman does not want children at this time.
Women would still have the option of refusing to answer. But Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, said requiring doctors to run down that list is designed to shame women.
More to the point, he questioned whether the state has any legitimate interest in asking the questions in the first place.
Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, was more direct.
"If I get an abortion, it is no one's business,'' she told colleagues.
"It is not this Legislature's business, it is not the governor's business or anyone in state government,'' Hobbs continued. "The Catholic Church does not need to know why I am getting an abortion, and not the Center for Arizona Policy.''
That refers to support of the bill by two anti-abortion groups: the Arizona Catholic Conference, representing the bishops of the state's three dioceses, and CAP.
Barto said she doesn't understand all the fuss, pointing out that doctors have been required to ask for years, though not with this kind of point-by-point inquiry. She also said women remain free not to answer and that their failure to do so would not prevent them from terminating a pregnancy.
She argued, though, that the health department needs better information to do things like tracking trends, finding out, for example, why abortions spike in any particular month. And Barto said that, armed with that information, the state and other organizations can better serve the needs of women.
Hobbs scoffed at that contention.
"If you really want to provide better health care to women then stop making it harder to get birth control and to access family planning services,'' she said.
Hobbs also noted the legislation is not asking for similar information from anyone else who undergoes a voluntary medical procedure, pointing out that, no matter the views of some, abortion is a constitutionally protected right. She also said it is safer than many other procedures.