Five years ago, my wife had an abortion when something went terribly wrong with her pregnancy. Four years ago, my curious, silly, amazing daughter was born because my wife was able to safely manage that pregnancy gone wrong.
When people say abortion is healthcare, it is not just a slogan, especially for people managing a health crisis. People get abortions for many reasons, making their own determinations based on their circumstances. For some, they find out new information during their pregnancy that changes everything. Over the years my wife and I have met dozens of people for whom this was the case. Every pregnancy is unique and each complicated, personal story we hear makes this abundantly clear. And yet, many had to overcome one-size-fits-all laws that made getting the care they needed almost impossible.
Passing laws to ban abortion will never prevent people from needing abortions. Criminalizing treatment doesn’t make a sickness go away. Most miscarriages are the result of the body recognizing that the pregnancy is not developing in a healthy way. But sometimes the body doesn’t manage it, and a person may choose to seek abortion. Making abortion illegal doesn’t change the need for this care – it just pushes it out of reach for people who cannot afford to travel far from home.
Right now, politicians in Arizona are intent on criminalizing abortion care in cases like ours. They are pushing a bill, SB1457, that makes it a crime to provide an abortion due to a “genetic abnormality.” This bill is a political stunt meant to stigmatize abortion care but it will have very real effects on people and their families. Research illustrates that denying wanted abortions cause real harm. Forcing someone to carry an unhealthy pregnancy can be dangerous, and it condemns a patient and their family to a potentially catastrophic outcome.
SB1457 also declares that an embryo or a fetus is a full person under the law. The legal implications of this are far-reaching, and have been used in other states to criminalize behavior while pregnant. Establishing fetal personhood is a slippery slope, putting pregnant people’s rights and freedoms in jeopardy. Declaring that anyone who is pregnant is subject to state oversight and control on behalf of their pregnancy is dangerous government overreach.
Politicians supporting this bill point to members of the disability community to justify it, suggesting that they are protecting a potential child with a disability. Bodily autonomy is a foundational principle of disability justice. Forcing someone to continue a pregnancy does nothing to help or protect people with disabilities, especially if they need an abortion.
People who learn of a fetal impairment or a genetic diagnosis during their pregnancy look at the world as it is – a world that continually fails people with disabilities. This bill does not address the ways in which our systems, our physical environments, and our institutions are ableist. It doesn’t address the discrimination and stigma people face. Nor does this bill provide for the needs of people with disabilities, make them safer, or protect them from high rates of abuse. If politicians want to help people with disabilities, there’s plenty they could be doing instead of using them as props to advance their anti-abortion political agenda.
The truth is this bill is not about standing with the disability community. It is not about protecting pregnant people. Wealthy Arizonans, like many of the politicians supporting this bill, will still be able to go somewhere else, but people who are struggling will be denied care. The bill is blatantly unconstitutional, and the politicians pushing it know that. Arizona tax-payers will pay the price, likely millions of dollars to defend an indefensible law in court. At the same time, these politicians have shut out doctors and individuals who have lived through these pregnancies, refusing to hear our stories.
Doctors should not be punished for treating their patients, but that’s exactly what SB1457 does. Federal court decisions from the Supreme Court and district courts are very clear, and SB1457 is simply a constitutionally impermissible intrusion of the state on our private decisions.
I still remember when our doctor looked at the ultrasound and explained what he saw, and I can still feel that knot in my stomach. My wife and I were heartbroken, and I was deeply worried about her health. I was worried about the future of our family. I am grateful we were able to access safe and compassionate medical care. We have never doubted or regretted our decision to get an abortion in that moment because it was the care we needed. I want that for everyone who needs it.
Arizonans should tell their lawmakers that they don’t want politicians dictating private medical decisions and to vote No on SB 1457.
Garin Marschall lives in Sedona with his family.