One of the last women to have a legal abortion in Arizona tells her story



Tucson, Arizona
CNN

Her feet dangle from the exam table, rocking back and forth in agony. The doctor will be here soon to do the ultrasound.

The woman will see the first image of the baby growing inside her, one she will never hold.

Ultrasound does not take long, and the image is unmistakable.

“You can see the head and the little nose,” says the woman, pointing to the ultrasound photo. He asked the doctor if he could keep the picture. “I want the photo because even though I’m deciding and taking this option, I still wanted to see my baby,” she says.

That option is abortion.

She will have the union at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Tucson, Arizona, where she was recently examined. First, there is the state-mandated 24-hour waiting period.

As she sits, ultrasound photo in hand, she chooses to tell her story to CNN.

“I want to make peace with this,” she says, grieving for the child who will never be born.

His decision has nothing to do with politics. But she’s caught up in all the emotions running through her in the face of the national political debate over reproductive rights and who gets to decide what’s best.

“I am very angry. Very,” he emphasizes. “All I see is a group of people – mostly men – all of us women making a decision when they have no idea what it’s like to be in our shoes.”

He spoke to CNN days before a Pima County judge ruled Friday that the 1901 ban, before Arizona was a state, should go into effect. The 121-year-old law, which allows abortion only to save the life of the mother, is one of several measures reinstated since the US Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision this summer overturned Roe vs. Wade.

The woman, whose identity CNN is withholding for her privacy and her safety, says she may not show you her face, but she wants you to hear her story.

“If we speak more, maybe our voices will be heard. Simply, maybe.’

The woman at the clinic is 23 years old and lives with her partner and their two young sons.

Her first pregnancy was physically challenging, from dehydration to excruciating abdominal pain.

But she says the second pregnancy almost killed her.

“I was screaming in pain,” recalls the woman carrying her young child, her voice breaking into sobs as she explained that she went to the hospital when she was five months pregnant. “They weren’t sure if my placenta was abrupt. I had IVs attached, breathing machines.’

The doctors ran several tests, he explained, but they couldn’t understand why she was bleeding and still having contractions.

Once, he was in the hospital for 23 days. During that stay a moment continues his pursuit.

“Papers”, he remembers, “to sign to decide whether to save my life or my son’s life”.

She wanted the comfort of her partner or mother, but her second pregnancy was during the coronavirus pandemic and hospital protocols meant she was completely alone.

“At 37 weeks, I’m in the hospital, bleeding, scared and alone, without my mother, without my family because of Covid. I’m preparing to have a premature baby. He does it. He survives, thank God,” she recalls, tears streaming down her face. Down.

Her second child feels like a miracle: healthy despite the physical difficulties of pregnancy. And they are a family, two working parents raising children.

About 10 weeks ago, birth control failed between the woman and her partner.

A few weeks later, a home test showed she was pregnant.

Had things been different, he might have chosen to add to his family, he says. “If this baby didn’t come with all the complications and everything it does, then it does,” she says.

But it was a terrifying thought the last time he faced procedures that prioritized life in an emergency.

“What then? I keep this baby and lose my life? And I can’t be there for my other two sons?” he remembers thinking.

She called Planned Parenthood in Tucson, but it was closed.

A new law went into effect in Arizona restricting abortion to 15 weeks, but as the state’s attorney general sought to reinstate the 1901 ban, abortion services were halted amid widespread confusion, leaving women caught in the middle.

“I’m walking around like crazy, I feel like I’m alone,” the woman at the clinic told CNN about that time and how she panicked. “I’m, I’m… I’m lost. I don’t know who to talk to, what to do. I’m scared, I’m scared that something will happen, that I’ll have to go through another painful pregnancy where they can’t tell what’s wrong.”

He says he called a clinic in New Mexico, then California, looking for a place to do a procedure or get an exam.

She scrambled to get an appointment and make child care plans so she could get help across state lines, all the while watching time slip away.

“It’s a constant fear. It feels like you’re alone, like a man who doesn’t know half the struggles we women go through is giving you only one chance,” she says. “It’s very, very scary.”

Then, nine weeks pregnant and still trying to get to California, the woman felt stabbed in the stomach.

“I had to go to the hospital in an ambulance,” he explained. Doctors hooked up an EKG and an IV for dehydration. Blood and urine were taken for testing and an MRI was performed. “They still couldn’t find anything wrong,” the woman said. “There is no abnormality with my fetus. It is inexplicable. I can’t keep water or food”.

She went home with the same lack of response from the previous pregnancy.

In late August, Planned Parenthood in Tucson began offering abortion services again while the court cases continued.

With the California trips still unscheduled, the pregnant woman booked the appointment.

When he arrived at the clinic, the noise was deafening.

The words “Jesus, let your kingdom come” rang out over a loudspeaker as half a dozen protesters stood on the sidewalk, asking the sick to come talk to them.

“Turn from your sin!” shouted a protester.

The woman did her best to ignore them.

Painted stones outside the clinic offer support to women seeking medical services there.

“They have the right to have an opinion, as we should have the right to ours. But we shouldn’t feel that we are murderers or that we don’t have that right,” he says about the protesters. “I think it’s very hypocritical, because I don’t know what some of us go through. It really hurts my soul.”

He admits that he has not been the most politically engaged person in the past, but the abortion incident in Arizona has changed that.

“Our stories matter. We care I think people like Blake Masters need to know that,” he says, referring to the Republican candidate challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly. After participating in the first “100% pro-life” event, the Masters is changing its public stance online. He has not commented on the Pima County court’s decision. Kelly is a supporter of abortion rights.

In November, the woman says, “more women should take a stand. Throwing this at us because some politician thinks it’s okay? I don’t think it’s good at all and I don’t think it’s fair.”

The woman carefully puts the ultrasound image into her bag and gets up to leave. The next time she returns to the Tucson clinic, she will be among the last in Arizona to perform a safe and legal abortion.

Arizona’s abortion ban was set to go into effect in a few days.