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Jan Brewer Signs Law Banning Most Abortions After 20 Weeks

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By David Schwartz

PHOENIX--Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer signed into law on Thursday a controversial bill that bans most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, giving Republicans a win in ongoing national efforts to impose greater restrictions on abortion.

The measure, which state lawmakers gave a final nod to on Tuesday, would bar healthcare professionals from performing abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in the case of a medical emergency. Only a small number of these abortions are performed in the state.

With Brewer's signature, Arizona joins six other states that have put similar late-term abortion bans in place in the past two years based on hotly debated medical research suggesting that a fetus feels pain starting at 20 weeks of gestation.

Georgia lawmakers approved a similar bill in March that now awaits the signature of Republican Governor Nathan Deal.

Late-term abortions will still be allowed in Arizona in situations where continuing a pregnancy risks death or would "create serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function." This is to be determined by a physician's "good faith clinical judgment."

The law also requires a woman to have an ultrasound at least 24 hours prior to having an abortion, instead of the one hour previously mandated under state law.

State officials are required to create a website that details such items as the risks of the procedure and shows pictures of the fetus in various stages.

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortions nationwide in 1973 but allowed states to ban the procedure after the time when the fetus could potentially survive outside the womb, except where a woman's health was at risk.

(Editing Tim Gaynor and Cynthia Johnston; desking by Cynthia Osterman)

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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