The Arizona senator is the first state lawmaker to speak about the fight for abortion

By | March 20, 2024

When Eva Burch learned that her pregnancy was not progressing and decided to have an abortion, Burch and her husband quickly made another decision: Burch, a Democratic senator in Arizona, would speak about it – from the floor of the chamber. state senate.

On Monday, as her voice shook and a group of women surrounded her, Burch gave a 10-minute speech about her decision and the struggle to navigate Arizona’s “coercive” maze of abortion restrictions. With her speech, Burch joined the ranks of women who have spoken out since the fall of Roe v Wade about their struggle to obtain abortions, even for non-viable pregnancies.

Related: Texas woman who denies abortion denounces ‘cruelty’ of Trump’s proposed 15-week ban

Yet Burch, who was still pregnant when she spoke both on the floor and during an interview, is the first state lawmaker to do so.

“If I can take this sad situation that I’m in and make it work, help people get involved, help people vote, help people worry about this and pay attention to their local governments – where so many of these decisions are made – then to me it’s worth it,” Burch said. “Despite the tragedy of it.”

Burch, who has two young sons, has struggled with infertility for years. She wasn’t trying to get pregnant, but when she discovered she was, Burch and her husband were happy and hopeful.

That happiness would fade when tests showed Burch’s pregnancy was not progressing and would end in a miscarriage, Burch said. She had had a miscarriage two years earlier and knew immediately that she would prefer an abortion.

Arizona bans abortion after 15 weeks, with no exceptions for rape or incest. Burch was well under that limit, but she still had to navigate an obstacle course to get care, she said.

Arizona law requires patients to visit an abortion clinic for counseling 24 hours before undergoing the procedure. Although Burch said she had already gotten an ultrasound and didn’t need another one, she said she still had to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound, which involves inserting a swab into a patient’s vagina. State law also required Burch’s provider to read her a statement about alternatives to abortion.

“For example, some statements read to me told me that there are alternatives to abortion, including adoption or parenthood, which in my case is particularly unfair, unkind and cruel, as parenthood is an option I would like to accept. Burch said. “The intention is clear: they don’t want to make sure it’s accurate and appropriate care. They want patients to make a different decision. They want patients to make a decision that legislators are more comfortable with.”

Notably, abortion laws in Arizona are still up in the air. In 1864, before Arizona became a state, the territorial government passed a near-total abortion ban that only allowed abortions to save a patient’s life. While Roe was the law of the land, that prohibition lay dormant; in 2022, lawmakers passed the 15-week abortion ban, which Roe also blocked from taking effect.

When Roe fell, confusion erupted over whether the near-total ban or the fifteen-week ban was in effect; Amid the chaos, all abortion providers in the state were temporarily closed as courts waged war over the two bans. The state Supreme Court is now considering whether to reinstate the near-total ban.

Burch almost got caught up in that turmoil. In June 2022, she became pregnant with another non-viable pregnancy and planned an abortion. The night before, Burch recalled, she began bleeding heavily and went to the emergency department. There she discovered that healthcare providers could no longer detect activity in the tissue that – in a healthy pregnancy – would eventually become a heart. But a doctor there refused to perform an abortion because, Burch said, she wasn’t bleeding heavily enough.

“They had offered to give me some medicine to get me bleeding again and said if I had bled enough, I could have had a procedure right there in the hospital,” said Burch, who is also a nurse practitioner and has worked at a women’s health clinic . clinic. “That sounded terrible.”

Instead, she had her abortion at a clinic the next day.

Burch’s ordeal occurred just two weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the closures of the clinics in Roe and Arizona.

“If the situation had occurred two weeks later, I would not have been able to access that care,” Burch said. “If I had to have an abortion, I would have had to leave the state to do it.”

She continued: “This time I knew what to expect. I went in there with my eyes wide open. But it doesn’t make it any easier. The laws here are not going to be palatable here because patients know what is going to happen. We simply deserve better care than what we get.”

Abortion rights advocates in Arizona are now collecting signatures for a ballot measure that would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. Advocates in about a dozen states hope to put abortion rights on the ballot in November; So far, every time Americans have voted directly on abortion rights after Roe, abortion rights advocates have won.

With Arizona an expected swing state in the 2024 elections, the push for the ballot measure — which Democrats also hope will boost turnout amid lackluster support for Joe Biden — is sure to draw national attention.

“I definitely hope that by sharing my story,” Burch said, “we can move voters in November.”

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