Despite legislative efforts to the contrary, abortion is a constitutionally guaranteed right – even in Arizona. Yet in our state, opponents of abortion have been doing an end-run around the Constitution by passing politically motivated laws that have made it difficult or even impossible for women to access safe, legal abortion. These TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider) laws not only violate people’s constitutional rights, they put their health at risk.
Their effect has been dramatic: a 40 percent decline in health centers that provide abortion, leaving 80 percent of Arizona counties with no access to such health centers, and women waiting weeks for services. These medically unnecessary laws have essentially stripped abortion access from many women living in Navajo, Hopi, Hualapai and Apache tribal jurisdictions, among others, and rural women in other regions of the state who already face many barriers to accessing essential health care. In fact, there is only one abortion provider in the Northern part of the state, and that health center only provides medication abortion one day per week. Some people must travel up to 700 miles round trip to access services. Think about the burden of traveling hundreds of miles to access a safe and legal medical procedure.
Everyone should be able to access reproductive health care – including abortion – regardless of their zip code or economic status. That’s why Planned Parenthood of Arizona is in court challenging three aspects of Arizona’s TRAP laws:
- An advanced practice clinician ban that prohibits qualified advanced practice clinicians, like nurse practitioners and physician assistants, from providing abortions and related care;
- A mandatory delay and two-trip requirement that imposes needless barriers to health care, including requiring patients to visit clinics in person, twice, with a 24-hour mandatory delay between visits that, in practice, delays women far longer; and
- A telemedicine ban that prevents access to early abortion services in remote areas.
Allowing qualified medical professionals to prescribe pills for abortion via telemedicine would expand access to women in underserved areas. Medication abortion has been available in the U.S. for many years and is extremely safe – the complication rate is less than one-half of one percent according to the Guttmacher Institute, whether provided in-person or by telemedicine. Telemedicine has been widely embraced in Arizona and across the nation as a high-quality health care option. In fact, the legislature has promoted the use of telemedicine to provide other health care services, including treatments for trauma, burns, cardiology, pulmonology, infectious diseases and neurologic diseases – even strokes. It’s politics that prevents advanced practice clinicians from providing abortion services.
The two-trip requirement is onerous and makes abortion unaffordable and inaccessible for too many Arizonans. Many of the people who seek abortion services are low-income and live at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. Low-income women face the most difficulty in paying for travel costs associated with two visits to a health center, rearranging inflexible work schedules at low-wage jobs, scheduling and paying for childcare and paying for abortion care.
The bottom line: There is no medical basis for these restrictions; they are designed to prevent people from accessing safe, legal abortion. It is the height of hypocrisy to pass these abortion restrictions as medical policies when they are in fact political attacks that endanger patients’ health.
Using politically motivated laws driven by uninformed opinions to regulate abortion providers hurts women’s health and decimates women’s rights. As a trusted, nonprofit health care provider, Planned Parenthood will not rest until every Arizonan has access to the full-range of reproductive health care services, including abortion. It’s time to take the politics and politicians out of women’s personal health decisions. Planned Parenthood of Arizona will continue to advocate for everyone’s health and rights, no matter what.
Bryan Howard is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Arizona.