The state of Arizona has passed new legislation which makes it illegal to have an abortion after 20 weeks.
While most abortion arguments have been along party lines, with the Republicans generally against abortion and the Democrats being pro abortion, this time it wasn’t clear-cut and a number of Republicans voted against the bill.
The argument for the new legislation lay in the idea that the foetus can feel pain after 20 weeks, and therefore this should be the cut off point.
The legislation also makes numerous changes to a number of related areas. As well as banning abortion after 20 weeks (except on medical grounds), the new bill also says that doctors can only prescribe abortion pills through to the seventh week of pregnancy.
Clinics are now expected to perform ultrasound scans 24 hours before any abortion is carried out.
This last requirement has been a fundamental change in a number of other states’ abortion legislation. Anti-abortionists believe by putting pressure in this way on both doctors and pregnant women, the latter may decide not to go ahead with the procedure.
Before this new legislation was passed, abortion was allowed up to the point of viability of the foetus. This is considered to be between 22 and 24 weeks.
Arizona is the latest US state to take this approach in the debate over abortion. Nebraska also recently passed a similar law.