As Supreme Court nears abortion ruling, Arizona advocates brace – Reuters

With the Supreme Court expected to issue a major ruling on abortion rights by the end of the month, protesters from both sides of the abortion debate have appeared in court in recent weeks on days when judges gave opinions. (Photo by Neetish Basnet/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling restricting or overriding abortion rights within days, but Dr. Phoenix DeShawn Taylor has been preparing for months.

“I’ve been doing this since the Supreme Court took the case to begin with because in my mind I thought, why would the Supreme Court take the case (if) they weren’t going to seriously consider overturning Roe V Wade,” Taylor said, referring to the 1973 Supreme Court decision that recognized the right to abortion.

A decision overturning Roe could come as early as Thursday, when the court could issue its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case challenging Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

A leaked draft of the Dobbs decision in May appeared to show a majority of justices agreed that Roe “must be struck down” because abortion is not constitutionally protected. The court may ultimately back away from that stance, but Taylor and other advocates are bracing for an outright ban on abortion.

“For my practice, overthrowing Roe V. Wade would essentially prevent the availability of abortion care at this clinic,” said Taylor, a gynecologist owner of Desert Star Family Planning in Phoenix.

So she and other advocates have built networks to educate and provide reproductive services and resources — including the ability to transport patients to other states where abortion may still be available.

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The Guttmacher Institute has identified Arizona as one of 20 states where abortion could be banned outright if the court overturns Roe. That’s because there’s a pre-Roe law in the books from 1901, when Arizona was still a US territory, that prohibited abortion except to save a woman’s life.

But the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona said it wasn’t automatic: ACLU spokeswoman Amanda Mollindo said the 1901 law was finally in effect in 1973 and would bind legal action to reinstate this law, which had been imposed by the courts in 1973.

And Arizona this spring passed a law mimicking Mississippi law: It would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions only in cases of medical emergencies for the mother. This measure, signed on March 30 by Governor Doug Ducey, could come into effect this fall.

Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, an anti-abortion advocacy group, says her organization supports the 1901 law. of Arizona” and “would oppose any effort to enact abortion rights, whether through the courts, through ballot measures, or through the legislature.”

If abortion is banned in Arizona, abortion advocates in the state have said they will continue their work to “address the needs of women who find themselves pregnant.” That includes nearly 50 pregnancy resource centers in Arizona that “stand ready to love women and their unborn children,” Herrod said.

Maria Birnbaum, Arizona state director at Susan B. Anthony List, an abortion advocacy group, said that with the support of crisis pregnancy centers and state resources for families, women do not have to “choose to be homeless”, but can obtain the resources necessary to give birth.

She said the centers typically work with mothers for several years after the birth, to provide “support, parenting classes, job training… It’s really amazing the different kinds of programs that exist here.”

The Supreme Court could simply restrict Roe v. Wade, her 1973 opinion that recognized the right to abortion, but many believe she could overturn Roe with her ruling this month in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. (Photo by Neetish Basnet/Cronkite News)

Abortion rights advocates say these centers provide misinformation and do not offer all options, including abortion, to pregnant women. They are putting their energies into continuing to make abortions accessible, even if that means helping “to move people from state to state to get their care.”

The Guttmacher Institute estimates that the current driving distance to get an abortion in Arizona is 11 miles. That would increase to 250 miles if there was an abortion ban in the state.

Eloisa Lopez, executive director of Pro-Choice Arizona, said building its network of volunteers and other abortion funds at the regional and local levels “has been a priority for the organization over the past year. elapsed”. Her organization operates the Arizona Abortion Fund and the Rural Access Project, which provides assistance to those currently seeking abortions in the state.

“It’s a priority for us because the reality is that a lot of people won’t be able to travel out of state if they don’t have some kind of financial system to make it happen,” Lopez said.

Sarah Tarver-Wahlquist, a member of the Tucson Abortion Support Collective, said she was looking for ways to change direction after Roe.

“It could look like running transportation networks to get people out of state to clinics in New Mexico, Colorado and California,” said Tarver-Wahlquist, whose group works with the Abortion Fund of Arizona. . “It could look like funding, a big fundraiser, because people are going to have to face even more costs. Travel costs and anything beyond the cost of the abortion itself.

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Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute, along with other advocates, say reversing Roe would have a more negative effect on communities of color and low-income people “who have been systematically oppressed and have less access to health care”.

“If you’re white and richer, you can get an abortion,” Nash said. “You’ll be able to pull together the funds, and you’ll have an easier time navigating all that logistics and detail and travel.”

Proponents worry that those without the resources may turn to other measures, such as self-sourced drugs that can disguise an abortion as a miscarriage. Taylor said she was trying to figure out how to respond if such a patient came to her clinic for care if things weren’t going well in such a situation.

Taylor said she “should seek legal counsel about the laws and the level of risk associated with certain types of pregnancy-related activities because I have absolutely no interest in going to jail for trying to help the people”.

But she wants to do everything she can to keep helping people. Taylor said she still takes appointments for abortion services and would keep her practice open in the event of a ban because it provides “other than abortion care.”

“I thought it was important for the community to know that my clinic exists, that my clinic provides the full range of family planning services in terms of reversible contraception as well as abortion care,” Taylor said.

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