Arizona Did Not Declare That Pregnancy Begins Before Conception

See also: Legislators Send 20-Week Abortion Ban Bill to Governor
See also: Appeals Court Delays 20-Week Abortion Ban at Least Two More Months

For some reason, the rumor is being passed around again that Governor Jan Brewer signed legislation declaring a woman's pregnancy officially begins two weeks before conception.

Even though the bill in question was actually passed in April, the pregnancy-before-conception myth still gets passed off as fact with regularity -- as recently as yesterday.

The legislation was House Bill 2036, which bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The rumor was that the law would ban abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy.

Here's an explanation of how that was calculated by the rumor mill at the Huffington Post:

The 18th week bill includes a new definition for when pregnancy begins. A sentence in the bill defines gestational age as "calculated from the first day of the last menstrual period of the pregnant woman," which would move the beginning of a pregnancy up two weeks prior to conception. The bill's passage would give Arizona the earliest cutoff for late-term abortions in the country; most states use 20 weeks as a definition.

That same thought led people to declare that Arizona just made a law stating pregnancy began two weeks before conception.

At the time these rumors started up, we tried to get the bill's sponsor, state Representative Kimberly Yee, to clear this up -- she never got back to us.

However, an actual OB-GYN did address the falsehoods -- Dr. Jen Gunter. You can read her entire retort to one of these false claims by clicking here, but here's the abbreviated version:

No, it doesn't mean that the law prohibits abortion at 18 weeks. It means 20 weeks. Pregnancy has ALWAYS been calculated from the [first] day of the last menstrual period. Always, always, always. When we do an ultrasound, we still use that convention. Perhaps it seems odd to non-obstetrical folks, however, since the last day of the period can be inaccurate (do you use flow? spotting? one spot of blood?), as can date of ejaculation (what if you have sex 3 days in a row?), and date of ovulation (how would you know that?), and the fact that fertilization takes 24-48 hours, the [first] date of the last menstrual period is the only accurate date. Every other state law uses the last menstrual period (as does every obstetrical textbook) because that is the way we calculate gestational age.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine agrees, as does another OB-GYN. We couldn't find a doctor who claimed otherwise.

There are actually controversial things contained in the law, though, as an appeals court has delayed the implementation of the law while it's being challenged, mostly due to the highly suspect claim of "fetal pain" at 20 weeks of pregnancy.

For the purpose of public shaming, though, we'll include a list of a few media outlets we found that blindly believed the pregnancy-before-conception rumor:

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The issue is that fetal development and pregnancy do not begin at the same time. Once the egg is available for fertilization, often two weeks after the start of the menstrual cycle, and conception has taken place (usually 24-48 hours after fertilization) only then can fetal development begin. So although you are certainly 21 weeks into your pregnancy, your fetus has developed for just 19 weeks. a 19-week old fetus cannot be aborted with this new law. Because the state of Arizona has banned abortions after 20 weeks of PREGNANCY. Legally defining pregnancy in this way means that for the last two weeks of your second trimester and beyond, in Arizona, you are not eligible for an abortion.This is very unusual. Typically states will ban abortions after 20 weeks of fetal development, not pregnancy. This law indeed prohibits abortions after 18 weeks of fetal development.


It is unusual, alarming, and was done intentionally to restrict a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy.


If this bill is preserving what "we all already know" supposedly, then why is this new bill needed? Whats different?


and even if it is a myth, It still is all bullshit. It's an attempt at forcing women to bear children they do not wish to have inside their bodies. Some GOP sickos also seem to approve of rape and incest and want to force the women to carry the fetus full term, and a few have even gone so far as to suggest that if a women is raped she will never become pregnant.. These people are stupid and need to get with reality. As a man, I saw allow abortion to be safe, legal and a choice.


BTW are they going to start charging mothers who have miscarriages after 20 weeks with murder or manslaughter or something?


The issue isn't the LMP. The reason for the "sudden repeat" of the "rumor" (it's not a rumor, but we can pretend for a moment that it is) about the Perpetual Pregnancy law is that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals placed an injunction against this law until a hearing can be had. Then Brewer turned around and *re*-signed the SAME bill (from April) into law again on 23 August, despite that injunction. The problem with the law has *less* to do with the LMP and "pregnant before conception" than with the matter of setting a precedent (an indirect result of Mississippi's failure to pass a Personhood Amendment). Oversimplifying this bill-now-law is just as disingenuous as the media outlets you're publicly shaming.


Thanks for keeping the news media accurate. When liberals (and left-leaning publications) report sensationalistic stories without checking the facts, we lose the moral high ground. 


Myth it maybe, but given the off the wall crazy stupid legislature and Governor Az has, it is an all too easy myth to beleive. 

ExpertShot topcommenter

 @Denise Village Voice (aka Phoenix New Times) has to throw a bone to the right wing once in a while to keep it's relevancy index up.The article about this issue by Jason Lewis in July contradicts this article's content: 


Jason writes: "Six other states have similar bans, but they calculate the gestational age of the fetus differently than Arizona does. In Arizona, gestational age is counted the day after a woman's last menstrual cycle as opposed to other states, where it is counted two weeks after the last cycle -- the time when fertilization generally occurs."


But we read above that the Huffington Post states ". . .most states use 20 weeks as a definition."  Did Phoenix New Times get it wrong to?  Why did Jason write " . . . they (6 other states) calculate the gestational age of the fetus differently than Arizona does" if, as the good Dr. Gunter states: "Every other state law uses the last menstrual period (as does every obstetrical textbook) because that is the way we calculate gestational age"  How do the "six other states" calculate the gestational age of the fetus differently again? 


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