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Abortion access in Arizona likely to become much more limited

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey this week signed a bill to outlaw abortions in the state after 15 weeks gestation, except in some medical emergencies. But the law hinges on a pending decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Abortion in the U.S. is legal until the fetus is viable outside the womb — about 24 weeks gestation. The 15-week ban would make Arizona one of the most restrictive states in the country for abortion access. Arizona  Senate Bill 1164, sponsored by Republican Sen. Nancy Barto was modeled after a Mississippi law that the U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering.

Longtime abortion opponent Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, said the idea was to get a similar ban on the books in Arizona in advance of that decision.

“Arizona lawmakers want to ensure that we’re protecting unborn children’s lives as well as their mothers to the fullest extent possible," Herrod said. 

Many expect the conservative majority Supreme Court will uphold Mississippi’s law. If it does, Arizona’s law would go into effect 91 days after this legislative session ends.

The bill passed through Arizona's Senate and House along party lines. Opponents argued that further restricting abortions in Arizona would disproportionately impact lower income people. 

“If you are someone of greater means, you will be able to commute to potentially California or another state to still get the care," said Murphy Bannerman with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona. 

The law does not punish patients who seek abortions after 15 weeks, but it makes it a felony for doctors in the state to perform them.

Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent reporting on a variety of issues, including public health and climate change.