Arizona lawmaker says she announced plans to get abortion to underscore out-of-touch laws

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PHOENIX — A pregnant Arizona lawmaker who revealed in a speech at the state Senate that she was planning to get an abortion says she wanted to share with her colleagues and the public the practical effects of abortion restrictions passed over the years.

Democratic Sen. Eva Burch of Mesa told fellow lawmakers in a floor speech Monday that she was going to get an abortion because her pregnancy is no longer viable. The first-term lawmaker, who previously worked as a nurse practitioner at a women’s health clinic, described a “rough journey” with fertility and recounted a miscarriage she had suffered.

Burch, 43, also criticized restrictions in Arizona as being out of touch, saying the state law requires an ultrasound that her doctor didn’t order and that she was given what she regards as disinformation about alternatives to abortion.

“It was an opportunity for me to highlight what we’re experiencing here in Arizona and how the laws that we pass in Arizona actually do impact people in practice and not just in theory,” Burch said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press in her legislative office.

The abortion that Burch is planning wouldn’t be her first. While running for office in 2022, Burch said she had an abortion because that pregnancy wasn’t viable and even mentioned on the campaign trail that she had undergone the procedure.

Burch, who previously gave birth to two sons, said she understands why women who have abortions keep that information private. But she said she wants the public to know that the struggles she has experienced are common.

Burch, who is running for reelection this year, also acknowledged that she wanted to shine light on a proposed ballot measure that would create a constitutional right to abortion.

“If the Arizona Legislature is not going to operate in reality, then the people of Arizona need to have an opportunity to be able to take control of some of those decisions for themselves,” Burch said.

Two abortion bills proposed this year by Democrats haven’t received committee hearings, including one that would repeal a pre-statehood law that criminalizes nearly all abortions.

The Arizona Supreme Court is considering the fate of the 1864 law. In a 2022 ruling, a lower court concluded doctors can’t be charged for performing an abortion in the first 15 weeks of pregnancy because other Arizona laws over the years have allowed them to provide abortions.

Apart from their efforts at the Arizona Legislature, abortion rights advocates began a push last summer to ask voters to create a constitutional right to abortion. If proponents collect enough signatures, Arizona would become the latest state to put the question directly to voters.

The proposed constitutional amendment would guarantee abortion rights until a fetus could survive outside the womb, typically around 24 weeks of pregnancy. It also would allow later abortions to save the mother’s life or to protect her physical or mental health.

Organizers of the effort will have to collect 384,000 signatures from registered voters by July to put the question on the November ballot.