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Planned Parenthood Arizona resumes abortion care services at Tucson facility

Planned Parenthood Arizona has resumed abortion care services at its Tucson facility, the Southern Arizona Regional Health Center. 

The organization paused all services statewide shortly after the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade in June. Planned Parenthood of Arizona President and CEO Brittany Fonteno says that was because medical providers faced confusion over what was legal. Under a pre-statehood law that banned all abortions except those to save the pregnant person's life, physicians who performed abortions could be prosecuted. 

“You had Republicans in the Senate immediately saying publicly that the pre-Roe near total ban on abortion was in effect, a couple of days after the Supreme Court decision, the Attorney General also started repeating that,” she said.

A judge in Tucson placed an injunction blocking that law from taking effect after Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. Fonteno says Planned Parenthood decided to greenlight abortion services again after a hearing about the law earlier this month.

“The big thing that has changed in recent weeks is that in a recent court hearing, the Attorney General and his office have acknowledged what we have said all along, that there is an injunction in place right now that's blocking enforcement of the archaic, territorial laws banning abortion," she said. “That was really what gave us the comfort and the confidence we needed to make sure that we could go forward with resuming abortion care and still be able to protect our staff and patients.”

Fonteno says services were first resumed at its Tucson facility because that's where medical providers were comfortable starting up again after the pause. 

“Restarting abortion services unfortunately isn't as simple as turning on a light switch, there was a lot of work that we had to do to get our staff to feel comfortable providing abortion care in this environment,” she said. “Unfortunately, I would say that anti-abortion advocates were really successful in their goal of creating this culture of fear and intimidation for healthcare providers.”

Fonteno says Planned Parenthood Arizona hopes to expand to its other facilities statewide that were providing abortion services before the Supreme Court ruling, if physicians are comfortable, and that all facilities are still offering other services like STD screenings and contraceptives. 

A judge is expected to issue a ruling on the future of the pre-statehood ban and its injunction as early as Sept. 20. 

Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.