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Arizona decides that pregnancy begins even before conception

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Ultrasound

Arizona went on a tear of anti-abortion legislation yesterday, passing three new bills, each one crazier than the last. One bill bans abortions any time after the eighteenth week of a pregnancy, another prevents lawsuits against doctors who purposely keep information from patients in order to prevent abortions, and the last would mandate that birth and/or adoption be advocated as the best outcomes of unplanned pregnancy in sex-education programs. After passing in the Senate, the bills are now headed for the desk of ultra-conservative Governor Jan Brewer. 

Besides creating an unusually harsh policy — for late-term abortions, the cutoff in most states is twenty weeks — the first bill also changes the definition of when a pregnancy begins: it will now be "calculated from the first day of the last menstrual period of the pregnant woman," which could be as much as two weeks before a baby was even conceived.

Though the bill actually lines up with the common medical definition of a fetus' approximate gestational age, "it will reduce access," said an official from reproductive-health research organization the Guttamacher Institute. The bill also violates constitutional rulings both by failing to provide adequate options for medically necessary late-term abortions, and mandating a questionably early cutoff date for such procedures.

"I imagine it will be a legal dispute," said Democratic State Rep. Matt Heinz. "If medical science can only determine gestational age with ten to fourteen days, how can a superior court judge do it?"

The depressing but not altogether surprising conclusion here? Arizona legislators are so committed to the rights of fetuses over those of living, breathing, voting women, that they want to make sure they're covered even before they actually exist.