Health

Arizona Lawmaker Pushes Fetal Health Care, Not Medicaid

| by Michael Allen

Arizona Republican state Sen. Steve Smith sponsored a bill that means doctors who perform abortions, as well as other physicians, must provide health care to a fetus if it shows signs of life.

Despite medical testimonies, the bill passed the state's Senate and House and was signed into law by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona without comment on March 31, noted The Arizona Republic.

Arizona's state House Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety voted to send the bill to the state's House on March 15, noted KTVK. The state Senate approved the bill in February.

"There’s a child in front of us that’s alive, could you give the child some basic medical care?" Smith told the committee.

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Arizona law already required doctors to use "all available means and medical skills" to preserve a fetus' life if it is delivered alive, but that law allows discretion for physicians, while Smith's bill does not.

The Casa Grande Dispatch reported in 2014 that Smith voted against the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act for poorer residents of the state. Smith said people who voted for it were "liberal Republicans."

"We need to fight these ridiculous federal programs that are going to bankrupt our state," Smith stated at the time.

Smith's health care bill for fetuses compels abortion providers and other doctors to do everything possible to keep a fetus alive if is born after 20 weeks.

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Smith's measure levies penalties and sanctions on hospitals that do not comply.

The Arizona Medical Association and neonatal doctors said the bill would apply to nonabortion pregnancies that end early and fatal birth defects. Doctors said parents should be allowed to spend the final moments with their newborn, instead of having physicians trying in vain to resuscitate a newborn until the moment it dies.

Anmarie Stone testified at the committee, and recalled how she was 22 weeks pregnant when she went into labor. According to Stone, doctors told her that the baby would have severe cognitive issues, and would be deaf and blind. She and her husband chose not to have the invasive medical treatments and spend the last moments holding the baby.

"You start doing medical intervention, it starts to seem cruel," Stone told the committee. "Just do what you can to be kind and to let the parents move on."

Dr. Peter Stevenson testified to the committee that the medical intervention Smith proposes for babies delivered at 20 to 21 weeks would inflict pain on fetuses that do not have a chance to survive, which he believed would violate the Hippocratic oath.

Because of the state's definition of abortion, the new law also applies to women who have an induced delivery because the baby is not expected to survive, including cases of fatal fetal anomaly and pregnancy complications.

Sources: KTVK, Casa Grande Dispatch via Pinal Central, The Arizona Republic / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

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