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Abortion restrictions target, deceive families

This artist sketch depicts Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart, standing while speaking to the Supreme Court, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, in Washington. Center for Reproductive Rights Litigation Director Julie Rikelman is seated right. Justices seated from left are Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Associate Justice Elena Kagan, Associate Justice Samuel Alito, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch and Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett. (Dana Verkouteren via AP)

The constitutional right to abortion is hanging on by a thread, with the Supreme Court considering a case that directly challenges Roe v. Wade. Here in Arizona, where I provide abortion care, a recently enacted anti-choice law only adds insult to injury. My patients, many of whom are Latinx and/or immigrants, are often wary of seeking abortion care because of the cost (especially for those who are underinsured or uninsured) and because they’re understandably distrustful of medical institutions that are far too often agents of racism and discrimination. The tenuous nature of abortion rights nationwide, along with this harmful Arizona legislation, is sowing disinformation and confusion across the state for patients and health care providers alike.

DeShawn Taylor

Although abortion access was already severely restricted in Arizona, last year, the Legislature passed Senate Bill1457, a sweeping law that attacks abortion access in almost every way imaginable. It threatens doctors like us who provide abortion care with jail time. SB1457 passed the Arizona Legislature with only Republican votes. Before the law was scheduled to go into effect in September, the Center for Reproductive Rights and its partners sued to block two provisions of the law—one banning abortion if there is any indication that the patient is seeking care based on a fetal diagnosis, and the other granting “personhood” rights to fetuses, embryos, and fertilized eggs in a manner that threatens to criminalize essential medical care for pregnant patients. The litigation is ongoing, and the state has now appealed to the Supreme Court to be able to enforce the provision that is currently blocked, the ban on performing an abortion procedure for a fetal diagnosis.

One of the biggest impacts of this bill is how it spreads confusion and disinformation among Arizonans, especially targeting Latinx communities and other communities of color. SB1457 blocks people from accessing information to make the best reproductive health care decisions for their families and circumstances. Not only that, but providers have also been left in the dark about how the state will enforce this law. It is poorly written, and this confusion is the point. Confusion sows fear.

Advocates who track the spread of disinformation about abortion, like NARAL Pro-Choice America, see how disinformation targets Spanish-speaking communities. Some Latinx communities are even questioning whether abortion is legal anymore in the state. Anti-choice groups want people to believe that abortion has been outlawed but make no mistake—abortion is still legal in Arizona.

However, that could change if the Supreme Court overturns Roe and the 26 states (including Arizona) expected to ban abortion do so. Unfortunately, the Arizona Legislature is currently controlled by anti-choice extremist politicians. Some of them are already threatening to enact a “Texas-style” abortion ban, and Gov. Doug Ducey recently said he welcomes the opportunity to overturn legal abortion access—a position out of step with the values held by the majority of Arizonans.

At Desert Star Family Planning—the Phoenix-based center I run and where I provide abortion care at, more than a third of all patients are Latinx. Many Latinx communities have faced trauma at the hands of some medical institutions, being discriminated against, having their faith attacked, being reported to the authorities for living here illegally, being threatened with deportation, or being turned away for not being able to afford care. Twenty four percent of all patients at Desert Star Family Planning have experienced difficulty accessing care, with cost being the number one barrier.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, if Arizonans are forced to seek abortion care out of state, they could see a 2,175% increase in driving distance. This increases the cost and time it takes to access timely care. With a direct challenge to Roe before the Supreme Court, the stakes for abortion access in this country have never been higher. That’s why I joined a “friend of the court” brief in the Jackson Women’s Health case calling on the Court to protect abortion access.

With each restriction, our families are targeted and deceived as we continue to face the consequences of convoluted legislation. We deserve the truth. We deserve to understand our rights and how we can access abortion care in Arizona. Providers deserve to understand how they can provide care so that we can begin to break down the barriers that prevent Latinx and immigrant communities from feeling safe and heard when in a doctor’s office.

Dr. DeShawn Taylor, OB-GYN is owner of Desert Star Family Planning in Phoenix.

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