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Arizona shouldn’t settle for bad abortion laws

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In Arizona anti-abortion politicians are taking over our personal pregnancy decisions. We cannot accept this new status quo of a 15-week ban just because it could have been worse. (Photo by Pexels)

The political rhetoric is loud, but I know the quiet truth: there is never a reasonable time for an abortion ban. I know because I was affected by one.

My husband and I were trying to build the life and family we wanted. But my complicated pregnancy took a turn for the worse, and I made the decision to get an abortion. I should have been able to get care from my regular doctors near my home. Instead, a state law, put in place by politicians I had never met, meant I had to travel out-of-state for care. It felt like a punishment on top of a health emergency.

In Arizona anti-abortion politicians are taking over our personal pregnancy decisions. After Roe v Wade was overturned in June, anti-abortion politicians in Arizona pushed to restore a Civil War-era total abortion ban that had not been in effect for decades. The same politicians had already passed a 15-week ban earlier that year. This complex web of laws confused everyone for months. In December, a court reconciled the two laws, allowing doctors to provide abortions up to 15 weeks. This means Arizona’s abortion laws are stricter today than they were before Roe was overturned. And stricter than most states in the U.S.

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Erika Christensen

Some people may think a legal limit sounds reasonable, that 15 weeks should be enough time to get an abortion. But this assumes two big things that are just not true.

First, it assumes people have all the information they need to make a decision about a pregnancy by a specific time. You might be surprised to know that 1 in 13 people discover their pregnancy after 12 weeks.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Not everyone gets morning sickness. Some have irregular periods, and complex medical conditions can mask symptoms. Whatever the circumstances, you simply can’t seek an abortion if you don’t know you’re pregnant.

The second assumption is that once someone has decided to get an abortion, they can get one quickly. Abortion opponents in Arizona have spent decades making it difficult to get an abortion or to provide one. It may take weeks to find a provider, raise money, and get to a clinic. Most abortion seekers are low-income, they already have children, and they cite money concerns as one factor in their decision. They do not have easy access to the money, transportation, or support needed to overcome these barriers in time.

We will never be able to legislate away adverse pregnancy outcomes or later recognition of pregnancy. Our bodies are complicated and do not follow legal timelines. What we can affect, however, are man-made delays that push abortion seekers further into their pregnancies.

Arizona has over 40 medically unnecessary abortion restrictions ranging from burdensome requirements to full bans. Even if you believe in your heart that someone should continue a pregnancy, abortion bans are not harmless suggestions. Laws have serious consequences like fines and jail time. They force people to stay pregnant against their will.

No abortion ban is reasonable to someone affected by it. And no, abortion bans with narrow exceptions for extreme cases like rape or incest are not the answer, either.

Most Arizonans, when asked, think abortion should be legal. And we just elected a governor and attorney general who agree we shouldn’t be criminalizing abortion care.

We cannot accept this new status quo of a 15-week ban just because it could have been worse. We need to donate to the abortion funds that help people access care and support the abortion clinics that provide it (yes, click on those links and give what you can). Then we must dismantle the hulking government machine that has been built in Arizona to threaten and coerce pregnant Arizonans. And we can’t wait–the one thing people who need abortions don’t have is time.

Erika Christensen is a later abortion patient advocate. She lives with her husband and daughter in Northern Arizona.


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