Bill Reintroduced To Protect Women From Unauthorized Pelvic Exams

(Photo by Connor Tarter/Creative Commons)

For the second year in a row, an Arizona legislator is seeking to end the practice of performing unauthorized or unnecessary invasive medical exams of women who are unconscious or under anesthesia.

On Monday, Sen. Nancy Barto (R) introduced SB1017 which if passed would make it an act of unprofessional conduct for a licensed physician, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant “to perform or supervise a pelvic examination on an anesthetized or unconscious patient without first obtaining the patient’s informed consent, with specified exemptions.”

Although SB1017 reads “pelvic” exam, medical professionals contacted by Arizona Daily Independent confirmed the exam involves vaginal and often anal penetration with fingers.

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The three exemptions in Barto’s bill include exams undertaken “within the scope of the surgical procedure or diagnostic examination performed on the patient for which informed consent has been obtained.”

There is also an exemption for “diagnostic purposes and medically necessary” exams of an unconscious patient, as well as when a forensic medical examination is requested by law enforcement “arising out of the need to secure evidence” if a patient has been the victim of a sexual misconduct.

A hearing on the bill is set for Jan. 13 by the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, which Barto chairs.

Last year Barto tried to get the same language added to statute while she served in the House. Her bill made it through a Third Reading and was transmitted to the Senate, where it failed to move forward.

In Arizona, engaging in non-consensual conduct similar to a pelvic exam with an unconscious or inebriated woman outside a medical facility or without medical necessity could be charged as sexual assault under Arizona Revised Statute 13-1406, a Class 2 felony.