New Abortion Restrictions Limit Access to Reproductive Health Care in Arizona

by Karen Van Hooft

This year has been a disastrous one for reproductive rights and women’s health care in general in Arizona. During its 2011 session the state legis- lature passed, and Governor Brewer signed, significant new abortion re- strictions, and later in the year the Arizona Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to earlier restrictions passed in 2009.

On August 11, 2011, the appellate court overturned an injunction issued in 2009 that blocked key provisions of that year’s legislation. In mid- September Planned Parenthood of Arizona (PPAZ) made the difficult de- cision to not appeal the case to the Arizona Supreme Court, citing the need “to focus its resources right now on its core mission of health care” as well as indications that the chances of success in an appeal were not strong. As a result, the following restrictions took effect:

Women are now required to meet in-person with a physician to listen to a state-mandated script of information 24 hours in advance of an abortion procedure. Previously, qualified staff members could provide the information over the phone.

  • Minors must now get a notarized statement of parental consent in order to get an abortion. Previously, notarization was not required.
  • Pharmacists and other health-care profession- als are now allowed to decline to provide infor- mation about or access to abortion, emergency contraception, or birth control due to their per- sonal beliefs.
  • Only physicians are allowed to perform early surgical abortions. Trained nurse practitioners are now banned from performing this proce- dure.

The additional restrictions passed in 2011, which PPAZ is continuing to challenge in the courts, in- clude provisions that redefine taking the abortion pill as surgery, thereby prohibiting nurse practitio- ners from providing abortion-by-pill (medical abor- tion), which was the only form of abortion available outside of Phoenix and Tucson.

With Arizona already experiencing a serious short- age of doctors trained to provide abortion care, these new barriers have had dire results: Planned Parenthood has been forced to discontinue such care in six communities, leaving only the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas with abortion services. (All PPAZ health centers still provide family planning and other preventive services.)

Taken together, the 2009 and 2011 restrictions im- pose severe burdens on Arizona women, particu- larly those residing in areas of the state where no abortion provider is available. Such women must now travel to Phoenix or Tucson for the required informational meeting with a physician and then either make the same trip the next day for the pro- cedure or go through the added time and expense of staying overnight. Many may not be able to af- ford the additional cost of travel, lost wages, and accommodations on top of the cost of the proce- dure. Minors have the additional complication of having to provide a parental consent form that must be notarized. And women in general are experienc- ing increasing difficulty obtaining referrals for abor- tion, emergency contraception, and even birth con- trol due to the “conscience” provisions of the legis- lation.

PPAZ has indicated that it will closely monitor the impact of these new restrictions on women’s ability to access safe, legal reproductive health care in order to gather evidence related to how these re- strictions harm women for possible future litigation.

What you can do:

  •  Check the “legislative scorecard” on PPAZ’s website (www.plannedparenthood.org/ppaz/) to see how your legislators voted on these and related bills, and then work to defeat those who voted for these harmful restrictions.
  • Contact us through our AZ NOW website (https://aznow.org/) if you or someone you know is adversely affected by any of the new restric- tions on reproductive health care.

The preceding was culled from information appear- ing in The Arizona Republic and in emails from Planned Parenthood of Arizona.