Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Abortion options expand in Arizona -- for now

The Arizona Daily Star reports that the Arizona State Board of Nursing will allow nurse practitioners to perform first-trimester abortions. The ruling apparently stands as a formal recognition of a de facto practice in the Tucson branch of Planned Parenthood.

From the perspective of expanding options for women, it's an important move. The Guttmacher Institute said in 2005 that Arizona has 19 abortion providers -- down from 21 in 2000. Allowing nurse practitioners to perform aspiration abortions will make it easier for women who want to terminate a pregnancy to find a medical practitioner willing to do so without traveling long distances. (Says Guttmacher: "In the West census region, where Arizona is located, 18% of women having abortions traveled at least 50 miles, and 5% traveled more than 100 miles.")

It's also, I might add, a small step toward deregulation in medicine, by expanding the range of procedures that NPs can perform. This increases competition, with all of the add-on benefits that entails, including the potential for reduced costs.

Of course, given the controversy over terminating pregnancies, there's a legislative move afoot, HB 2269, to reverse the Board's decision.

The next move, to cut the need for abortions, might involve teaching teenagers how to use a condom, a pill, a diaphragm or any other of the wonderful inventions the human race has developed for preventing unwanted reproduction. That has to start in the family, of course, and that involves breaking down cultural barriers against discussing the consequences of becoming sexually active with teenagers who are pretty clearly determined to do just that. At the moment, Arizona has the second highest rate of teenage pregnancies in the country (though it's declining) -- 20% of which are terminated.

I'm sure that has nothing to do with the state's long focus on abstinence education to the exclusion of alternatives if the horny little monsters decide to climb on each other anyway. Governor Napolitano, in a wise break from extorting state industries to support her projects, has rejected federal funds linked to abstinence-only education. I'd rather the tax-supported schools not be the primary source of information about proper sexual practices -- and why in hell is the federal government getting involved? -- but they shouldn't be the source of unrealistic nonsense either.

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