Arizona Lawmaker Who Shared Abortion Plans on Senate Floor Had to Endure State-Mandated Counseling 

Arizona state Sen. Eva Burch shared her plan to get an abortion on the Senate floor last week—she also shared what state law required her doctor to tell her before she could receive the procedure.

Arizona Lawmaker Who Shared Abortion Plans on Senate Floor Had to Endure State-Mandated Counseling 

Earlier this month, Arizona state Sen. Eva Burch (D) learned eight weeks into her pregnancy that her embryo wasn’t developing, and her choices were between an abortion or waiting for another miscarriage.  “I don’t think people should have to justify their abortions,” Burch said in remarks on the Senate floor on March 20. “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.” Despite Burch knowing what was best for her and the right course of action for her nonviable pregnancy, the state of Arizona did not make the decision easy for her.

In an interview with Jezebel Burch, a mother of two, said she chose to share her deeply personal experience, putting herself at risk of anti-abortion harassment, to shine a light on an everyday experience even in a state that doesn’t have a total abortion ban. On the Senate floor, Burch recounted her history of fertility struggles including numerous miscarriages and an abortion for a nonviable pregnancy two weeks before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. She told her colleagues she didn’t want to go through another miscarriage. “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. Right now, the safest and most appropriate treatment for me—and the treatment that I choose—is abortion,” Burch said. “But the laws this legislature has passed have interfered with my ability to do that.” 

But state law in Arizona, where abortion is legal through about 15 weeks of pregnancy, requires people seeking abortion care to receive state-directed counseling from their abortion provider. Abortion providers are required to tell them (among other things) that they have the option to parent or to put their child up for adoption. Of course, Burch did not have those options: Her pregnancy wasn’t viable. But she still had to sit through this politically charged, state-mandated guidance anyway. “From where I sat, the only reason I had to hear those things was 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 said in her speech. “There’s no one-size-fits-all script for people seeking abortion care, and the legislature doesn’t have any right to assign one.”

Burch and other Arizona Democrats have been trying to repeal this mandatory counseling abortion law for years now but are unable to advance their bills out of committee thanks to the Republicans’ majority. Burch introduced SB 1531 earlier this year to repeal the waiting period and other onerous restrictions. Speaking to Jezebel on Monday, Burch called the mandatory counseling she received “misguided and factually inaccurate at best,” but “in my case, hurtful, because I was mourning the loss of my pregnancy in that moment.” Burch emphasized that the counseling that abortion providers are required to offer isn’t written by medical experts but by anti-abortion “extremists” with a political agenda to stigmatize the health service and pressure someone out of making a personal medical decision.

“They are also required to talk about the probable fetal anatomical properties at the time of the abortion procedure, which again, in my case was inaccurate since my embryo was dying and was not subject to the properties of a healthy, developing pregnancy,” Burch explained. Pregnancy and pregnancy loss are personal and emotionally charged experiences under the best circumstances—Burch was losing a wanted pregnancy, and thanks to state law, she still had to hear about what her pregnancy theoretically looked like at that stage.

These mandatory counseling laws are “just part of a larger plan by legislative Republicans to be coercive and to shame and frighten patients into making a different decision,” Burch said. Arizona law also requires a 24-hour waiting period between when patients come to the clinic seeking abortion care, and when the procedure can take place. This, and the state-directed counseling requirement, aren’t about “informed consent” as Arizona Republicans claim, Burch says. It’s all part of a broader campaign of “weaponizing the Arizona state legislature” to dissuade and manipulate people to not have the abortions they seek. According to Guttmacher, Arizona is one of 33 states that require abortion patients to receive state-directed counseling before an abortion; 28 states require waiting periods like Arizona’s.

Courtesy of Sen. Burch

Burch, who’s worked at a reproductive health clinic for 12 years, knew what her doctor would have to tell her when she came in seeking care. But “you can’t really prepare” to listen to your supposed options while simultaneously grieving a nonviable pregnancy, she explained. Her doctor was visibly uncomfortable doing so: “[Doctors are] being forced to participate in behaviors and actions that do not reflect their own values and do not contribute to the well being of their patients.” 

Despite the uphill battle that bills like her SB 1531 have faced to repeal unnecessary, restrictive, and stigmatizing abortion laws, Burch is hopeful since flipping even just one or two seats in either Arizona’s state House or Senate could end Republicans’ narrow majorities and lead to meaningful legislative change to help patients like her.

“I’ve received an overwhelming response since sharing my story—thousands of emails, messages, comments, people telling their own pregnancy stories, thanking me for sharing a story that’s similar to theirs,” Burch told Jezebel. “I can just see people becoming more brave and more ready to take on these challenges. And I believe that this is going to ultimately translate into change in this country, and states like Arizona.”

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