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An Arizona lawmaker announced she was getting an abortion. Here's what happened next

Since announcing her pregnancy and plans for an abortion, Arizona state Sen. Eva Burch has undergone the medical procedure and continues her work in the state Senate, where she hopes her story will change hearts and minds.
Ross D. Franklin
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AP
Since announcing her pregnancy and plans for an abortion, Arizona state Sen. Eva Burch has undergone the medical procedure and continues her work in the state Senate, where she hopes her story will change hearts and minds.

For the first 25 minutes, the Arizona Senate's floor session on March 18th was unremarkable.

Then, state Sen. Eva Burch stood up and announced to her colleagues that she was pregnant, and planned to get an abortion.

Detailing a deeply personal medical history of past miscarriages, Burch told her fellow lawmakers that she made the decision to seek an abortion after discovering that her fetus is not viable.

"I don't think people should have to justify their abortions," Burch, a Democrat, told the chamber.

"But I'm choosing to talk about why I made this decision, because I want us to be able to have meaningful conversations about the reality of how the work that we do in this body impacts people in the real world," she said, in reference to the state's 15-week abortion ban, passed in 2022.

First hand experience of Arizona's abortion laws, before and after Roe

It's not the first time Burch has spoken publicly about the topic — in the past, the lawmaker has openly talked an abortion she received in 2022, before taking office.

That time, Burch says, she also had a non-viable pregnancy, and began to miscarry the night before a scheduled abortion. She says she went to a hospital, where she was unable to obtain an emergency abortion.

"I had been bleeding and passing huge clots for hours, but I wasn't bleeding out, and I was still pregnant," Burch remembers. "So I was offered medication to make me start bleeding again and told that I could have a procedure when I had bled enough."

She did receive abortion services the next day — two weeks before clinics in Arizona began to shut down following the U.S. Supreme Court'sDobbs decision, which overturned Roe v Wade.

This time, Burch had to contend with the new abortion regulations passed by the state in the wake of the Dobbs decision, which she says made finding and obtaining care even more difficult and drawn-out.

Burch, who is also a nurse practitioner, says the current law requires her provider to give a list of "absolute disinformation" as well as what Burch describes as an "unnecessary" ultrasound, plus counseling designed to change the minds of patients with viable pregnancies.

"I was told that I could choose adoption; I was told that I could choose parenting, which were two things that I couldn't choose," Burch said. "And it was cruel to suggest that that was an option for me when it's not."

Arizona's dueling abortion laws create an uncertain future

Arizona currently has two conflicting abortion bans on the books: a near-complete ban that dates back to the 1860s, and a 15-week ban passed by Republican legislators in 2022. The case is now pending before the state Supreme Court.

For now, doctors can perform an abortion after 15 weeks in a medical emergency, according to the Arizona Attorney General's office.

Abortion rights advocates rally at the Tucson Federal Courthouse in 2022. The state Supreme Court is deciding whether a 15-week ban or a near-total ban which dates back to the Civil War should be the state's enforceable abortion law.
SANDY HUFFAKER / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Abortion rights advocates rally at the Tucson Federal Courthouse in 2022. The state Supreme Court is deciding whether a 15-week ban or a near-total ban which dates back to the Civil War should be the state's enforceable abortion law.

Dr. Jill Gibson, the chief medical officer with Planned Parenthood Arizona, says those mandatory talking points that Burch was subjected to before her procedure are part of a script providers are required to recite under the current Arizona law.

She hopes Burch's openness will dispel misconceptions about who is seeking abortion care.

"I do absolutely agree that people have a misconception and judgments about people who have abortions but the reality is that one in four people with reproductive potential will have an abortion during their lifetime," says Dr. Gibson.

Burch hopes her story has impact, but doesn't expect to change many minds

There are no bills about abortion currently before the state Senate, so Burch's story won't have an immediate effect on legislation. And Burch says she doesn't have high expectations that her story would change the minds of people on the other side of the aisle "who are very passionately against abortion."

But her testimony had an effect on at least one Republican lawmaker.

"Her story points out that there are aspects of those statutes that get in the way of reasonable care for some people," says Sen. Ken Bennett, who lists "protect unborn life" on his campaign website as a priority.

Bennett was quick to say Burch didn't convince him that abortion should be legal in all circumstances, but says there is a conversation to be had about where lawmakers should draw the line.

"Somewhere between heartbeat and viability, there needs to be some flexibility for people to make decisions on their care," Bennett says, but added that he does not think abortion should be used as "birth control."

Arizona voters could decide the future of abortion access this fall

Burch believes lawmakers should not be involved in decisions about abortion at all — and she believes most Arizonans agree with her. A poll of voters conducted in 2022 months after the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision found that around 90% of voters believed abortion should be legal "in some way, shape or form."

And a campaign is underwayto put abortion rights before voters this November, through a referendum vote that will decide whether to enshrine the right to abortion in the state Constitution. Abortion advocates have about three more months to collect the nearly 400,000 signatures they need to get the measure on the ballot.

Arizona is one of at least a dozen states with abortion amendment initiatives underway, and of the six states which have already put the question before voters, all have gotten the votes to amend their state constitutions.

Copyright 2024 KJZZ

Wayne Schutsky
[Copyright 2024 KJZZ]
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