Looks like Arizona lawmakers have some explaining to do.
Last year, the state -- whose lawmakers are so exceedingly anti-abortion that they recently approved a law banning it after 20 weeks, with no exceptions for rape victims -- saw a 25 percent jump in abortions from 2010. That's apparently the biggest change in the last decade, according to the Arizona Department of Public Health Services. In absolute terms it averages out to 16 abortions for every 100 live births.
But state Health Director Will Humble insists the new data do not necessarily mean that more pregnancies were actually terminated in 2011. Instead, The Arizona Daily Sun reports Humble said the apparent 25 percent increase may be due to enhanced reporting now required by the state, and that Arizona's abstinence-only sex education agenda appears to be working because the number of teen pregnancies in the state has continued to fall.
For example, Humble said 20 percent of the state's abortions were performed on females under 20 in 2000, a figure that fell to 13 percent in 2011.
The increase cannot be attributed to the state's 20-week abortion ban, which was blocked by a federal appeals court in July. The law makes an exception only in the case of a medical emergency in which abortion is necessary "to avert [a woman's] death or for which a delay will create serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."
Paradoxically, most of the reproductive health regulations recently passed by Arizona's Republican-controlled Legislature actually increase the risk of unplanned pregnancies. According to the Guttmacher Institute, women primarily have abortions because they feel like they are incapable of caring for a child, or they cannot afford to.
And yet, under its Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, Arizona has repeatedly attempted to axe services that actually help working families. In 2010, the state became the first to eliminate its Children's Health Insurance Program, leaving 47,000 low-income children without health coverage. In another effort that would deprive thousands of Arizona residents of coverage, Brewer is also considering opting out of the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion.
Furthermore, while Arizona lawmakers apparently want to make it as difficult as possible for women to obtain abortions, they're certainly not investing in programs that prevent unplanned pregnancies (because time and time again, studies have proven abstinence does not work.)
Earlier this year, Planned Parenthood was stripped of all state funding after Brewer signed off on a law that bars the use of public money to organizations that provide abortions. Planned Parenthood provides preventative health and family planning services for about 20,000 Arizona women, most of whom are lower income and likely do not have easy access to other sources of medical treatment or contraception.
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