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Sen. Mark Kelly visits Planned Parenthood's Tempe abortion clinic

Sen. Mark Kelly visited a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Tempe on Wednesday. He said even though Arizona’s near-total abortion ban has been repealed, he still wants to see reproductive rights expanded further.

Arizona's Supreme Court last month ruled that the state should follow an abortion law dating to 1864, which criminalizes performing an abortion unless it's to save a mother's life. State lawmakers earlier this month voted to repeal the 160-year-old law, so it is unlikely to ever go into effect. But Arizona abortion providers are still being held to another law, passed in 2022, that bans abortions after 15 weeks of gestation.

Planned Parenthood staff told Kelly the 15-week law still concerns them. 

"Staff talked about the challenges that that presents for patients who often don't know about fetal anomalies until after 15 weeks, and then to get a procedure that they need for their health care, they have to travel out of state," Kelly said. "That's just wrong." 

Planned Parenthood staff told Kelly patients recently have been confused about whether abortion is legal in Arizona. And Kelly said two years of legal back-and-forth over abortion laws in the state is also scaring away health care providers. He cited recent data from the Association of American Medical Colleges showing residency applications for OBGYNs in Arizona dropped more than 25% this year.

"We’re going to be suffering the effects of this potentially for decades because we’re going to potentially not have the workforce to provide health care for women in our state," Kelly said. 

Kelly said he would support federal legislation to guarantee abortion access nationwide.

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