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A year after Dobbs decision, Arizonans face increased barriers to abortion

A year after Roe v. Wade was overturned, patients seeking abortions in Arizona are facing longer wait times and added barriers for appointments, according to Planned Parenthood Arizona, the state’s largest abortion provider.

“Most mornings we have patients lining up outside of our health centers for walk-in abortion appointments as early as 2 a.m. and staying in line in 100-plus-degree heat to receive the care that they need," Planned Parenthood Arizona medical director, Dr. Jill Gibson, told reporters Thursday. "They’ve traveled from all over the state and from outside of the state.”

After the Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision in June 2022, there was some  confusion over which, of multiple abortion-related laws, should take effect in Arizona. Almost all abortions in the state paused in September after a superior court judge said the state's Civil War era near-total abortion ban could be enforced. But, two weeks later, a higher court  reversed that decision and a new law, passed during the 2022 legislative session, banning the procedure after 15 weeks' gestation took effect.  

Even though the  majority of abortions in Arizona happen earlier than 15 weeks, the new law has impacted many patients, Gibson said. 

“Certainly on a weekly basis we are sending multiple patients to California to get the care that they need beyond 15 weeks," Gibson said. 

And as some Arizona patients head to California, Gibson said she is also now treating an influx of patients who come to Arizona from other states where abortion has been totally banned.

That’s causing longer wait times for appointments, since the organization is still struggling to fill staff vacancies, said CEO Brittany Fonteno.

“There is a brain-drain that is happening, you have nurses and doctors who have left the state to go to friendlier environments," Fonteno said. "We are not able to meet the immense need that people have for this essential health care right now." 

Planned Parenthood’s Flagstaff clinic is not currently providing abortion services due to staffing shortages. But Fonteno said the organization is planning to launch a mobile clinic later this year to serve other areas of the state.

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Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent reporting on a variety of issues, including public health and climate change.