Providers in Arizona are suspending abortion services

Clinics around the state are having to turn away women who want abortions in Arizona.
Clinics around the state are having to turn away women who want abortions in Arizona.(Arizona's Family)
Published: Jun. 24, 2022 at 4:19 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/AP) — At least three providers in Arizona are putting abortions on hold due to Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Planned Parenthood Arizona and Family Planning Associates Medical Group said just hours after the decision they will be pausing all abortions. It was later confirmed Desert Star Family planning in Phoenix made the same decision. Family Planning Associates said all appointments will be canceled until further notice. Those who got an abortion before Friday can still attend their follow-up appointments.

Since all seven Planned Parenthood health centers in Arizona stopped providing abortion services Friday, dozens of patients were sent home. “I know in our Tempe health Center location there were over 30 patients scheduled for abortions today and they all had to be turned away and other health center locations we also had to turn patients away,” said CEO Planned Parenthood Arizona Brittany Fonteno.

PPA blamed politicians for the confusion. “We are working with our attorneys to understand Arizona’s tangled web of conflicting laws so we can ensure patients know what our rights are and how to access legal abortion,” said Fonteno. FPA also said it’s assessing the legal landscape of what the ruling means for Arizonans and what laws are now on the books. The confusion arises because, during the 2022 legislative session, state lawmakers passed a law banning abortion after 15 weeks. But Arizona already had a law on the books from 100-plus years ago that banned abortion altogether. That measure calls for a mandatory prison sentence of two to five years for those who perform the procedure.

Republicans in the state Senate believe the pre-Roe law is enforceable. A related law that made women who get abortions subject to prosecution was repealed last year. Ducey, who signed the 15-week ban into law in March, has insisted that the new law takes precedence over the total ban, although the new law explicitly says it does not do that. “The Supreme Court has made the right decision by finally overturning it and giving governing power back to the people and the states,” Ducey said in a statement.

Civil Justice advocate Civia Tamarkin says Arizona women are left in limbo about what their rights are and what health care services are available. “Mot people have no idea what the next legal steps are so until lawyers figure this out in the legal community providers are hesitant because of the potential for great criminal risk,” she said. Tamarkin is with the National Council of Jewish Women AZ.

Fonteno said Arizonans should have a fundamental right to abortion and not have to spend more time and money going to a different state to get an abortion. She added Friday’s ruling hurts those in minority communities the most. “As a woman of color myself, I know that what our commuinties need to atain equity and health an in life is more access to health care, not less, and certainly not politicians interfering with our health care nor criminalizing us for making our own personal decisions about our bodies, our lives, and our futures,” Fonteno said.

Planned Parenthood Arizona had prepared for the ruling and the potential that all abortions would be made illegal in Arizona. Forteno said the group has partnered with a Southern California Planned Parenthood chapter to provide abortion services in that state. The “patient navigator” program is designed to connect women with providers and provide travel, lodging and financial support.

“Because we know that having to flee the state, having to flee your community in order to access basic health care, is something that no one should have to deal with,” Fonteno said last week. “And so we really want to be that support for our patients and their moment of need.”

Planned Parenthood will continue providing other reproductive healthcare services, including abortion follow-up care for those who travel out of state. “If abortion is illegal, we know that access to contraception, all forms of contraception, is going to be really critical,” Fonteno said. “And we know that inclusive and comprehensive sex education is going to be key. And it’s really going to be about mitigating harm. We know that just because abortion becomes illegal, it doesn’t mean that the need for abortion goes away.”

The chair of the state Democratic Party, Raquel Teran, said the high court’s decision was the result of a decades-long crusade by Republicans to “rip away reproductive rights.” “Right now Arizonans are going through periods of anger, sadness, and frustration, in response to this brutal attack on our freedoms,” Teran said. “Ultimately, those emotions are fueling our continued fight for our most basic rights.”

Prosecutors are split along party lines, with Republican Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell saying she may prosecute providers under the new law and Democratic Pima County Attorney Laura Conover saying she will not. Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich made no mention of the pre-Roe ban on Friday, pointing instead to the new law that will take effect in about 90 days. He had urged the high court to overturn Roe.

There were just over 13,000 abortions in Arizona in 2020, according to the most recent report from the Arizona Department of Health Services. Of those, fewer than 650 were performed after 15 weeks gestation.