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Arizona abortion providers react to state supreme court ruling banning most abortions

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Arizona lawmakers this week are grappling with the state Supreme Court's ruling reinstating a near-total ban on abortions. The ban is not yet in effect, and it's unclear when it could be. In the meantime, providers at Arizona reproductive health clinics are wondering what the future holds for them. Arizona Public Media's Paola Rodriguez visited a clinic in Phoenix and has this story.

PAOLA RODRIGUEZ, BYLINE: In the hours after the state's high court ruled to uphold an abortion ban made in 1864, Camelback Family Planning in Phoenix continued doing business as usual. Owner Gabrielle Goodrick says they planned to stay open.

GABRIELLE GOODRICK: And help patients navigate care that they need, either out of state or online, through self-managed abortions. We can facilitate that by doing ultrasounds, bloodwork, seeing follow-ups to make sure the medicines work. We can follow up out-of-state visits. There's a lot of work that we can do.

RODRIGUEZ: Goodrick says 98% of what her clinic does is abortion care, and it provides nearly one-fourth of all abortions in Arizona. State lawmakers are considering new legislation to repeal the 1864 law, and a ballot measure to amend Arizona's constitution to protect access to abortion appears likely. Goodrick is optimistic.

GOODRICK: We'll be ready when the law is flip back to what's right from this extreme. So I'm in the long game, and the long game involves going through this kind of pain.

RODRIGUEZ: The soonest the 1864 law could take effect would be June, so Camelback will continue offering abortions for now.

MICHELE: Well, do we need to switch out?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Everything should be shut down right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEPHONE RINGING)

RODRIGUEZ: Michele is a registered nurse here. She didn't want to use her last name out of concern for her personal safety. She says the court's decision left her worried.

MICHELE: Oh, I feel like a patient. When the patients come in and they get (laughter) - they get all nervous, and then I'm like, it's OK. It's fine. But, you know, you're processing everything (crying), and it's very emotional.

RODRIGUEZ: Ashleigh, another nurse here who doesn't want to use her last name for safety concerns, says she's worried about patients who have to turn to overworked emergency rooms.

ASHLEIGH: We sent one girl to the emergency room three times, and they turned her away two times. And the last time we had to send her back with, like, a note from our doctor telling them what was going on. It's the same problem over and over again - way too many patients, not enough nurses.

RODRIGUEZ: Atsuko Koyama, a physician here, says the 1864 law does allow abortions when a pregnant person's life is at risk. But...

ATSUKO KOYAMA: That's not a real medical thing. There's no definition of what close enough to death means to a legislator, right? And these are medical decisions that should be between a physician and the patient.

RODRIGUEZ: Koyama has seen firsthand how abortions can save a life. One of her patients had a condition that could cause heart failure late in pregnancy or after.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEPHONE RINGING)

KOYAMA: If she has another child, she could potentially die. And she doesn't want to die. She wants to watch her child grow up and graduate from high school and get married. And having access to abortion allows her to be there for her own child.

RODRIGUEZ: While the 1864 law is temporarily on hold, the staff in this clinic say they remain optimistic that Arizona will restore access to abortion, either through legislation or a voter-approved constitutional amendment.

For NPR News, I'm Paola Rodriguez.

(SOUNDBITE OF KACEY MUSGRAVES SONG, "BUTTERFLIES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Paola Rodriguez

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