Right now, were I to find myself pregnant, none of Arizona’s abortion restrictions — current or recently enjoined— would pose burdens severe enough to prohibit me from obtaining the care I sought. I’m not a minor, I live in the same city as the closest abortion provider, and I have a job where taking 2 consecutive days of sick leave doesn’t jeopardize my employment status.
Like I said, I’m lucky.
Four years ago, this wouldn’t have been the case. I was still legally an adult, but I was in an emotionally abusive relationship and without a highway safe car of my own. I had no support network — zero local friends and a then-partner who would likely have actively tried to prevent me from obtaining an abortion. And I lived in a city that didn’t have an abortion provider of any kind (and still does not have a provider of surgical abortions) and was, in fact, something like 175 miles away from the nearest abortion provider.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, as of 2005, only about 27% of Arizona counties had abortion providers. That’s an access issue in itself. It’s further compounded when one realizes… that 175 miles I mentioned? That represents being one county over from abortion access.
For some Arizona women, obtaining an abortion already means finding transportation, paying for a tank or more of gas, and making a full day (or possibly even 2 day) trip for the procedure. It may also mean taking unpaid time off work or arranging for childcare. Adding a 24-hour waiting period to the already substantial time and expense may make the burden unmanageable for some. As Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood Arizona, explained, "A woman coming from Yuma County would spend an average $523.08 in additional costs since services will not be available in her community."
And last I checked, neither gas stations nor cheap motels operate on sliding scales.
Because this provision may affect a relatively small proportion of women — Guttmacher puts the figure at 16% — it can be tempting to dismiss its importance. But the people this restriction will affect the most are the people whose access is already the most in jeopardy: people who live far from abortion providers and who may struggle to find the resources to get there once, let alone twice. Access to health care, including abortion, means meaningful access for everyone. Right now, with these restrictions, we don’t have it.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled that the judge blocked any provisions of this bill at all. But I do think it’s important to recognize that even with the preliminary injunction in effect, the net effect of this law is to further limit abortion access.