ARIZONA NEWS

Abortion services expected to ramp up in nearby states after Arizona decision

Apr 11, 2024, 5:00 PM | Updated: 5:03 pm

Abortion advocates protest in Washington, D.C....

Nearby states expect an uptick in abortion service requests after Arizona's ruling on April 9, 2024. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Women's March)

(Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Women's March)

Adrienne Mansanares expects a flurry of calls from patients in Arizona starting this week.

She’s the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which has clinics that provide abortions in Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. Mansanares said the clinics should be able to accommodate people who are seeking the procedure in the wake of an Arizona Supreme Court decision.

“That is still a very long way for patients to go for health care,” she added, noting that the clinics already have seen nearly 700 patients from Arizona since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022.

Doctors and clinic leaders said there’ll be a scramble across the Southwest and West for abortion care due to Tuesday’s decision, which said officials may enforce an 1864 law criminalizing all abortions except when a woman’s life is at stake.

“People are going to have to start looking out of state,” said Dr. Maria Phillis, an Ohio OB-GYN who also has a law degree. “This is now another place where they can’t go safety to access care.”

On top of potentially long distances to states like New Mexico, California and Colorado, patients who used to go to Arizona from other states for abortion care will have to go elsewhere, Phillis said.

Plus, Arizona is home to more than 20 federally recognized tribes, and barriers are expected to be higher for Native Americans because of existing hurdles, such as a decades-old ban on most abortions at clinics and hospitals run by the federal Indian Health Service and fewer nearby health centers offering abortions.

Interstate travel for abortions nearly doubled between 2020 and 2023, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. Out-of-state patients accounted for 16% of abortions obtained nationally, compared to 9% in 2020, the group said.

Guttmacher data scientist Isaac Maddow-Zimet said that when bans go into effect, more people travel to less restrictive or non-restrictive states, but “not everybody is able to” travel.

Traveling could mean pushing abortions later into pregnancy as people try to get appointments and potentially face mandatory waiting periods. According to results of a periodic survey spearheaded by Middlebury College economics professor Caitlin Myers, waits in several states stretched for two or three weeks at various points since federal abortion protections were overturned; some clinics had no available appointments.

The Brigid Alliance works nationally to help people who need abortions receive financial and logistical support like airfare, child care, lodging and other associated costs. Last year, it helped 26 people travel out of Arizona to get abortions.

Interim executive director Serra Sippel expects the number of calls from Arizona residents to grow.

People that the alliance has helped go out of state — mostly from Georgia, Texas and Florida — have seen backlogs stretching to four to five weeks because of higher demand, Sippel said. Some get bounced between clinics because their pregnancy has passed the point that they can get care there.

“With a pregnancy, every moment counts,” said Sippel, who added that delays can have serious repercussions. Phillis noted procedures done later in a pregnancy could take longer and be slightly more complicated.

The Abortion Fund of Arizona, which helps people travel for abortions both in and out of state, said out-of-state clinics have required patients to stay to take the second pill used in medication abortions because of concerns about liability. That means multi-day trips, said Eloisa Lopez, executive director of Pro-Choice Arizona and the abortion fund.

“We’re looking at anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 per person for travel expenses, with their abortion procedure expense,” Lopez said.

The fund is talking with municipalities in Arizona to see if they can create their own abortion funds.

Meanwhile, in Tucson, a CEO of a pregnancy center that opposes abortion said things are likely to stay the same under the new law. Hands of Hope Tucson has been around for 43 years, is about 200 steps from a Planned Parenthood clinic and is pretty busy, CEO Joanie Hammond said.

“We’re just coming alongside women and men who are facing an unexpected pregnancy … We’ve always been about the women and about the babies,” she told the AP. “At the pregnancy center, I see the women and I see what happens to them after they go through that abortion experience. We just want to be there to help them in the next step for healing and whatever they need.”

For Arizona residents who are closer to California, which expanded its abortion protections after Roe v. Wade was overturned, officials are pointing people toward the Abortion Safe Haven Project. Created by the state and Los Angeles County, the project has guidance and resources for out-of-state patients.

Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest put out a statement this week from president and CEO Darrah DiGiorgio Johnson, saying it supports out-of-state patients with navigation services to help them tackle logistical barriers to care.

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Abortion services expected to ramp up in nearby states after Arizona decision