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Abortion in Arizona: women race against the clock of an archaic law

By AFP

April 30, 2024 10:57 PM


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Piper decided she needed an abortion almost as soon as Arizona judges ruled an 1864 law banning the procedure could be enforced.

Having only just found out she was pregnant, what she had really wanted was time to think, but that was a luxury she felt she could not afford.

"The laws in Arizona are really dicey right now, so I wasn't sure what would be available to me," said Piper, who wanted to use a pseudonym to discuss her choice about one of the most divisive issues in America.

Piper, 30, fell pregnant unexpectedly -- her partner told her he had undergone a vasectomy, but he was keen to go through with the pregnancy.

"I would have liked to hear him out more, but we just didn't have the time to think through it," she told AFP after taking pregnancy-ending pills at a clinic in Phoenix.

Arizona's abortion laws are in flux.

In making its ruling this month, the state's Supreme Court said since the 2022 overturning of Roe vs. Wade -- which had guaranteed abortion rights nationwide -- Arizona's own arrangements had to revert to a 160-year-old statute, drafted before it was even a state and when women did not have the right to vote.

After a national outcry, the state's lower chamber last week passed a bill that would repeal the law -- but only after three moderate Republican lawmakers abandoned the majority to vote with Democrats.

The initiative will now pass to the Republican-dominated Senate where its passage is far from certain, reflecting the willingness of elected conservatives to defy a popular desire throughout America to keep abortions safe and legal.

Democratic Senator Eva Burch says her Republican opponents push the threat of severe bans by way of deterrent.

"It creates a really hostile, inhospitable environment for women where we don't have any assurance that we're going to be able to get the care that we need if something goes wrong," she told AFP.

The 44-year-old became something of a figurehead for the abortion rights movement in Arizona after revealing on the floor of the Senate the difficulty she encountered securing the procedure when she learned her pregnancy was not viable.

"I felt like it was really important... for people to see what that looks like in Arizona and what somebody has to go through to receive that kind of care."

 Election issue 

 Abortion looks set to be a key issue when Americans go to the polls in November to elect a president.

Incumbent Joe Biden hopes to bolster his flaccid poll numbers by blaming challenger Donald Trump for the tightening restrictions.

In Arizona, voters will likely be asked to decide if they want the right to abortion enshrined in the state's constitution.

Democrats hope that will drive turnout in a state where Biden's 2020 margin of victory was just 10,000.

For Gabrielle Goodrick, head of the Camelback Family Planning clinic, the anxiety that bans are causing throughout the US will be a motivating factor in November.

"These laws are so extreme that I think it will push people to the polls... to vote for choice and vote for abortion rights and bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom," she said.

  'I thought we took care of this' 

 Goodrick's clinic sees between 20 and 30 patients a day, who slip behind anonymous mirrored glass walls into what looks from the outside like a shopping mall.

Inside, the atmosphere is warm, and the colorful reception area is buzzing with friendliness.

"I honestly just try to put on as happy as a face as I can and just be as sweet as possible," said receptionist Gelsey Normand.

"Because regardless of how you feel about getting an abortion, it's still a difficult choice to make."

Outside the clinic, a small group of people gather regularly to distribute leaflets they hope will dissuade patients from going through with the procedure.

"I believe that God has a plan and a purpose for every baby he creates," said Lynn Dyer, 88, who has been in the anti-abortion movement for five decades.

The anti-abortion group frequently attracts counter-protestors, volunteers who wave colorful umbrellas and try to shepherd patients safely into the clinic.

A 65-year-old woman who did not want to give her name says she initially volunteered in 1973 when America was in shock after the landmark Roe vs. Wade ruling legalized abortion across the United States.

She says she was exasperated when she realized she would have to begin doing it again in 2017 when Trump became president.

"I thought we took care of this," she said.


AFP


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