PHOENIX — When an Arizona judge ruled last week that prosecutors can resume enforcement of a near-total ban on abortion dating from the Civil War, it fell to Camelback Family Planning staff to break the news to women scheduled for the next few weeks.
Staff faced “crying, a lot of very, very angry people, denial,” nurse Ashleigh Feiring said Monday. One woman argued: “But it’s only been five weeks.”
Women seeking abortions in Arizona were forced to seek alternatives across state lines after the ruling, which paves the way for prosecutors to charge doctors and others who help a woman terminate a pregnancy unless that his life is in danger. Major abortion providers in the state immediately halted procedures and canceled appointments.
Providers in neighboring states, already seeing increased traffic from other conservative states that have outlawed abortion, were gearing up to treat some of the 13,000 Arizona patients who have abortions each year.
Planned Parenthood Arizona asked Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson on Monday to stay her ruling pending an appeal, saying it created confusion about the state of the law in Arizona. The lawyers cited the conflicts created by the 1864 abortion ban, a more recent law that prohibits abortions after 15 weeks, and a variety of other laws that regulate the processes and paperwork when pregnancies are terminated.
Johnson’s ruling lifted an injunction that was imposed after the Roe v. Wade of the Supreme Court of the United States guaranteed the right to abortion in 1973.
At the Camelback Family Planning clinic in downtown Phoenix, a young woman left work Monday afternoon for an appointment to get medication to help with an abortion. The 20-year-old fears she is prone to miscarriage and she already had a miscarriage two years ago.
“I don’t want to experience this. I don’t have the time or energy to go through that again,” said the woman, who declined to give her name.
But it never got past the check-in window. Instead, she received a piece of paper with a mail-order drug website on it and left visibly upset.
She says she never got a call that a Tucson judge’s ruling last Friday effectively nullified her ability to have an abortion in Arizona.
“I can guarantee that he would not have wasted his time leaving work early and losing money to come here,” the woman said. “I need to do it, regardless of whether it’s going to a different state or crossing the border. It just sucks that this is the last resort for people.”
Doctors and nurses at Camelback Family Planning had a hunch last week that a court decision on abortion might fail. But they thought it would be a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. So several of the abortions performed last week were for patients over 20 weeks.
“We cleaned up our schedule to do as many of those later periods,” said Feiring, the nurse. So they postponed a few less patients until this week.
Feiring and other Phoenix clinic staff are letting patients know the clinic is still available to provide follow-up abortion care. They refer them to websites and organizations that help with access to abortion.
Planned Parenthood has patient navigators who work with women seeking abortions to find an affiliate in a state where abortion is legal and to help with money and logistics, said Brittany Fonteno, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona. Many Arizona patients are having abortions in California, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado.
“This is really a traumatic experience, to be told that one day you have a basic healthcare procedure available and out of nowhere the next day it has been taken away from you and has the potential to completely alter the course of your life. Fonteno said.
In California, the second-largest Planned Parenthood affiliate in the country says it is considering opening a new health center in part because of an expected surge in patients from Arizona and other states.
Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino counties operates nine health centers in Southern California that served 250,000 doctor visits last year, largely for non-abortion services such as cancer screenings and birth control. , according to Nichole Ramirez, senior vice president of communications for the group. .
The group began preparing for an influx of out-of-state patients last year by hiring more providers, offering more space for abortion appointments and helping patients pay for things like gas, hotel rooms and plane tickets.
“We knew this was going to happen slowly, in a way, as state by state has been outlawing abortion,” Ramírez said. “The number is going to continue to increase.”
California is already seeing evidence of an increase in abortion patients coming from other states. Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new website, abortion.ca.gov, that promotes all abortion services in the state, including a list of clinics and information on state laws.
On Monday, the Governor’s Office said the website, while it doesn’t track or store people’s personal information, had seen an increase in out-of-state page views, with about 58% of the traffic coming from people in other states. state. That surge comes after Newsom used some of his campaign money to pay for billboards in seven conservative states to promote the website.
Meanwhile, California Access Reproductive Justice, a nonprofit that helps people pay for the logistics of getting an abortion, said 10 of the 63 people it helped in August were from Arizona.
Shannon Brewer, director of the Las Cruces Women’s Health Organization which operates an abortion clinic in southern New Mexico, says she anticipates an increase in inquiries about abortion services from Arizona residents, two hours by car at least. The clinic has already received nearly a dozen inquiries Monday from people in Arizona.
Brewer previously operated the abortion clinic in Jackson, Mississippi, which was at the center of the Dodds v Jackson Women’s Health decision that eliminated constitutional protections for women to access abortions across the country. The Mississippi clinic has closed, while the New Mexico clinic of the same name has treated about 100 abortion patients during its first six weeks of operation.
“Most of our calls are from out of state, mainly from Texas. Most of our patients are from Texas,” Brewer said Monday. “I expect the same” from Arizona.
Most abortion procedures remain legal in New Mexico, where state lawmakers in 2021 repealed a dormant 1969 statute that banned most abortion procedures as felonies to ensure abortion access.
Associated Press writer Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico contributed.