Current laws allow abortions until the established point of viability, when a fetus is considered capable of surviving outside the womb. Most experts put that time around 22 to 24 weeks. Even in the handful of states with anti-abortion laws similar to Arizona's, the cutoff is 20 weeks. As a result of the Women's Health and Safety Act, Gov. Brewer has effectively whittled the point of viability down to 18 weeks. This is problematic, doctors believe, because a majority of women don't discover serious or life-threatening problems with their fetuses until the 20th week. The Arizona law will require mothers to carry terminally ill babies to term, knowing they will die within hours of birth.
State Rep. Kimberly Yee, who sponsored the controversial bill, allegedly told supporters that allowing a doomed child to glimpse the outside world -- if only for a moment -- before succumbing to a slow, agonizing, suffocating death that inflicts severe emotional distress on the parents, and which could imperil the mother's life, provided a far more dignified end than abortion.
As for the "two weeks before conception" argument, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood explained that HB 2036 "calculates gestational age starting with the first day of the last menstrual period rather than the date of conception."
Like it or not, this draconian piece of legislation now hangs in Arizona's growing rogue's gallery of extremist laws. And this week, it claimed its first victim in what prosecutors are calling a precedent-setting case.
The incident was initially reported by Harvey Rondelle, husband of the accused, 32-year-old Yvette Rondelle.
"Last week weren't a good one for me," Mr. Rondelle told reporters. "Diamondbacks got totally swept by the stupid Padres -- some pansy California team. I got a speeding ticket on the way home from the bar, too. So, you know, I was looking for a little lovin' when I come to the house, some sexual healing. But Vette, that's what I call her, tells me she ain't in the mood."
Yvette Rondelle, against the advice of her attorney, admitted refusing her husband's advances during questioning by police.
"I wasn't in the mood, but that never stops Harv," Mrs. Rondelle said. "He pressured me, bargained with me, then he got angry. So I decided to get it over with, and went to the bedroom with him. But he was drunk and smelly and gross, and I just couldn't go through with it, so I pushed him away. Then, my monthly visitor came. After that, I refused to let him near me for a few days."
Mr. Rondelle contacted an attorney, explaining that because his wife withheld favors and then abstained from sex within two weeks of her period, she had essentially terminated a prospective fetus while legally being two weeks pregnant under the new law. His attorney immediately called the police, arguing that because the circumstances surrounding Mrs. Rondelle's "self-administered abortion" did not meet the requirements under law, she should be arrested and prosecuted.
Mrs. Rondelle confessed that she did not possess a medical license, was not operating a clinic under the legal guidelines, and did not receive an ultrasound 24 hours prior to the procedure.
"Not only did she violate every law on the books, Mrs. Rondelle performed a dangerous surgical procedure in an environment that wasn't sterile and which lacked the proper equipment. She could've killed herself in the process too," Harvey Rondelle's attorney said.
The case is expected to go to court in September. Arizona state officials are confident that Mrs. Rondelle will be found guilty and imprisoned.
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