Arizona State Senator Needs An Abortion; Calls Out Colleagues

As Arizonans prepare for a potential vote on an abortion rights ballot measure, Democratic state Sen. Eva Burch on Monday took to the chamber’s floor to announce that she plans to terminate her current pregnancy, explain why, and condemn harmful restrictions.

“A few weeks ago, I learned that against all odds, I am pregnant,” said Burch (D-9). “Many of you know that I’ve had kind of a rough journey with fertility. I had my first miscarriage more than 13 years ago, and I have been pregnant many times. Since then, twice, I was lucky enough to successfully carry to term and I have two beautiful healthy little boys.”

“But two years ago, while I was campaigning for this Senate seat, I became pregnant with what we later determined was a nonviable pregnancy. It was a pregnancy that we had been trying for, and we were heartbroken over it,” she continued, referencing an abortion she has previously discussed publicly. “After numerous ultrasounds and blood draws, we have determined that my pregnancy is once again not progressing and is not viable And once again, I have scheduled an appointment to terminate my pregnancy.”

“My experiences in this space, both as a provider and as a patient, have led me to believe that this Legislature has failed the people of Arizona.”

Burch, who has worked as an emergency nurse and a nurse practitioner in a women’s health clinic, stressed that “I don’t think people should have to justify their abortions but I’m choosing to talk about why I made this decision because I want us to be able to have meaningful conversations about the reality of how the work that we do in this body impacts people in the real world.

After acknowledging some of the risks of pregnancy and that she accepted them to carry her two sons, she said: “I don’t know how many of you have been unfortunate enough to experience a miscarriage before but I am not interested in going through it unnecessarily. And right now, the safest and most appropriate treatment for me and the treatment that I choose is abortion.”

The Democrat then took aim at the Arizona Legislature for passing laws that restrict access to care for people like her. The state bans most abortions after 15 weeks, imposes a 24-hour waiting period between in-person counseling containing misinformation and the procedure, and forces patients to get medically unnecessary ultrasounds.

Detailing her trip to an abortion clinic on Friday, Burch said:

I didn’t have an ultrasound because my doctor thought I needed one. I had one because legislation has forced me to do that, an invasive transvaginal ultrasound that I didn’t want or need to have, performed by someone who didn’t want to have to do it. I am safe and loved and protected in my marriage. But I cannot imagine how inappropriate that would be for a victim of sexual assault or for someone who has an abusive or coercive relationship with their partner—another unwanted vaginal penetration, but this time by the state, by the people who are commissioned to protect us.

Then I got to sit through an exhaustive list of absolute disinformation that was read off to me. I was told that there were alternatives to abortion, parenting or adoption among them, as if delivering a healthy baby is an option for me. It is not. My medical provider was forced to tell me multiple things that don’t apply to my situation, and some that are just transparently factually false. And they do this because of laws passed by this Legislature in opposition to medical expert testimony and advice. From where I sat, the only reason I had to hear those things was in a cruel and really uninformed attempt by outside forces to shame and coerce and frighten me into making a different decision other than the one that I knew was right for me.

Burch explained that “the last time that I had an abortion, I started to miscarry that night before it was scheduled to take place. And I was denied a procedure in the hospital because I was deemed not critical enough, in spite of the fact that my embryo had died, and that my miscarriage had stalled.”

“The clauses for emergencies aren’t good enough. These laws can serve to intimidate doctors and it muddies the waters when they’re trying to make complex decisions in situations that are really volatile,” she argued. “I had been bleeding and passing huge clots for hours, but I wasn’t bleeding out. And I was still pregnant. So I was offered medication to make me start bleeding again and told that I could have a procedure when I had bled enough. A waiting period is often totally inappropriate and potentially dangerous.”

The lawmaker got an abortion at the clinic the following day—just two weeks before the right-wing majority of the U.S. Supreme Court reversedRoe v. Wade in June 2022, setting off a new wave of efforts by state legislators to pass forced-pregnancy legislation.

Burch highlighted some negative impacts of being denied an abortion—from heightened risks of domestic violence and eviction to long-term health consequences. She also noted the “sensitive feelings surrounding pregnancy” and “philosophical questions that people cannot agree on,” while stressing that decisions should be made by patients and providers.

“My experiences in this space, both as a provider and as a patient, have led me to believe that this Legislature has failed the people of Arizona, in the laws that restrict and dictate abortion and in the resources that it cuts and strangles and denies at every opportunity,” she said of her time in the state Senate. “Our decision-making should be grounded in expert testimony and in consensus from both the medical community and from constituents, and free from political posturing and partisan bias, but that’s not what I see happening.”

“So I truly hope that Arizonans have the opportunity to weigh in on abortion on the ballot in November. We know that the majority of Arizonans support the right to abortion and if we can’t operate in that reality in this chamber, then it is critical that everyone have the opportunity for their voices to be heard elsewhere,” she concluded. “I stand with those who have had to grapple with and navigate Arizona’s restrictive laws surrounding abortion at a time when the decisions being made were complicated enough. I’m with them. I appreciate them. I am them.”

Among those who praised her 10-minute speech was Sam Paisley, national press secretary of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), which works to elect state lawmakers in the party.

“Arizona Sen. Eva Burch sharing her decision to get an abortion is the epitome of courage,” said Paisley. “No woman should have to go through the emotional and physical hurdles she described—Arizona Republicans have passed unnecessary burdens on abortion care that put women in danger. Sen. Burch’s story is powerful, but it is sadly not unique—patients across Arizona have to jump through hoops to get the care they need.”

“There are very real, and sometimes even deadly, consequences to the attacks on reproductive freedom that Republicans across the country have launched,” Paisley added. “The DLCC commends Sen. Burch for her advocacy and stands ready to defeat alarming GOP extremism in state legislatures in Arizona and across the country.”

Jodi Liggett, founder of the Arizona Center for Women’s Advancement, said on social media: “Today, Sen. Eva Burch shared her heart-wrenching story of nonviable pregnancy. AZ laws… have complicated her access to care. Her situation is one of thousands; personal and complicated. Conservatives, butt out and let patients and doctors handle these decisions. Privately.”

Dr. Jill Gibson, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood Arizona, similarly called out state lawmakers for criminalizing abortion and imposing unnecessary regulations while also commending Burch for sharing her story “fiercely and free of shame, and illuminating the experiences of all Arizonans trying to access abortion services.”

“Every time patients and providers share their abortion stories we reduce stigma and increase awareness and recognition that abortion is simply healthcare,” Gibson said. “The senator’s story of needing healthcare and being forced to jump through hurdles and navigate a complicated legal landscape is sadly one that I see firsthand every day at our health centers.”

“The majority of Arizonans support the right to abortion and it is past time that their voices be heard,” the doctor added. “At Planned Parenthood Arizona we are committed to providing sexual and reproductive healthcare, including abortion, for all Arizonans, and continuing to oppose and fight legislative interference into our ability to care for our communities.”

This post has been updated with comment from Planned Parenthood Arizona.

Republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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