By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - A controversial Arizona bill that bans most abortions performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy moved closer to becoming law on Wednesday in the Republican-controlled state legislature after clearing the state Senate.
The bill, which would still allow abortions after 20 weeks in the case of medical emergency, was passed by a mostly party-line 20-to-10 vote in the Senate on Tuesday. Only a small number of abortions are performed in Arizona after 20 weeks.
State Representative Kimberly Yee, a Republican who sponsored the bill, said she has the votes needed for the late-term abortion bill to pass the House and head for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to sign.
No vote has yet been scheduled, and Brewer, a Republican, has not indicated whether she would sign such a measure.
"The majority of members in the House are fully supportive of ensuring the health and safety of Arizona women and acknowledge that the state has a compelling interest in protecting maternal health," Yee told Reuters.
The bill is the latest salvo in the long-running national battle over late-term abortions. Six states in the past two years have enacted bans based on controversial medical research suggesting a fetus feels pain starting at 20 weeks of gestation.
The Arizona bill would also require women to have an ultrasound at least 24 hours prior to having an abortion, instead of the one hour that is currently mandated under state law.
In addition, the bill would require that the state create a website that details the risks of the procedure and shows pictures of the fetus in various stages.
Yee said the bill was needed to "protect the health and safety of Arizona's women from the dangerous practices of the abortion industry."
But Bryan Howard, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said the late-term abortion bill was just another attempt to intrude on a woman's right to choose.
"Arizona is becoming a state where women have very little control in making their own healthcare decisions," Howard said, following a rally at the state Capitol in Phoenix.
"You can see that legislators are pushing their own ideological agenda," he added, saying his group planned an aggressive fight to oppose the abortion bill and other related measures.
The Supreme Court legalized abortions nationwide in 1973 but allowed states to ban the procedure, unless it risked the woman's health, after the time when the fetus could potentially survive outside the womb.
(Editing by Tim Gaynor and Cynthia Johnston)
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