Meet Eva Birch, the Arizona state senator who is fighting against abortion bans by sharing her abortion plan
Meet Eva Birch, the Arizona state senator who is fighting against abortion bans by sharing her abortion plan

This is a hasty transcript. The copy may not be in its final form.

Amy GOOD MAN: It is Democracy Now!, I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez.

As we continue to address the issue of reproductive rights, we are joined by Arizona Democratic Senator Eva Birch. She made headlines last week when she gave a speech in the Arizona state senate where she shared her plans to have an abortion after receiving the news that her pregnancy was non-viable. State Sen. Burch spoke about her fertility struggles and the miscarriage she had more than a decade ago.

SEN. EVA BIRCH: Two years ago, while running for this Senate seat, I became pregnant with what we later found to be a non-viable pregnancy. This was a pregnancy we were trying for and we were devastated by it. But now I wish I could tell you otherwise, but after numerous ultrasounds and blood draws, we found that my pregnancy was once again non-progressive and non-viable. And again I made an appointment to terminate the pregnancy. I don’t think people should justify their abortions, but I choose to talk about why I made this decision because I want us to be able to have meaningful conversations about the reality of how the work we do in this body affects people in the real world.

Amy GOOD MAN: That’s Arizona state Sen. Eva Burch, a former nurse who worked at a women’s health clinic and has been widely critical of abortion restrictions in Arizona, where abortions are banned after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest. State Senator Eva Birch joins us now from Phoenix.

We welcome you Democracy Now! And let me start by saying that last week you publicly announced your plans to have an abortion. I can’t believe we’re talking about this globally. Did you have the procedure? And how did it feel to make that public for everyone? And while you did that, the Republicans left the state Senate.

SEN. EVA BIRCH: Good morning. Thank you for having me on the show today.

You know, I felt like it was really important for me to bring people in so that people could really see what that looked like. I am at this critical intersection in the abortion conversation because I have been a health care provider, I have been a patient seeking abortion care, and now, as a legislator, I know my perspective is unique. And I wanted to share that. I wanted to bring people into the conversation so that we can be more honest about what abortion care looks like in Arizona – but it’s happening across the country – and who the abortion patient is, and really try to overcome some of the the stigma and some of the misunderstandings about abortion care and hopefully move the needle in the right direction.

JUAN GONZALES: And, Senator, can you talk about how your profession as a health care provider and nurse practitioner has influenced your approach, the conversations you may have had with other women in similar situations?

SEN. EVA BIRCH: Definitely. I worked in reproductive health for a while. I don’t work in the abortion field because it’s not something that’s available to me as a nurse practitioner, but I’ve had patients who were pregnant who had questions, patients who were concerned about whether Arizona was a welcoming environment or not for someone who is pregnant, patients who are not sure if continuing the pregnancy is the right decision for them. And we have to counsel them with the understanding that our laws here are changing, that abortion care is not guaranteed in Arizona in any way, not only for patients who are simply not sure whether or not they want to continue their pregnancy, but and for patients who may be experiencing pregnancy complications or pregnancy loss the way I was.

Amy GOOD MAN: You spoke –

JUAN GONZALES: And would you –

Amy GOOD MAN: Come on, Juan.

JUAN GONZALES: Can you talk about the reaction of other members of the Senate as well as the protesters after you made your announcement, how you and your family dealt with it?

SEN. EVA BIRCH: Yes, I got an overwhelmingly positive response. It really excited me. I have people sending me letters to the legislature. I had thousands of emails, messages, and direct messages on social media. What I mostly get are people telling me their own stories or just thanking me for giving them a seat at the table. I think people really don’t want to bring people with them with their experience with abortion. It’s very personal and a bit taboo, and it’s often a sensitive subject. People don’t want to talk about it, but they want to be heard. And I think people are really grateful for that opportunity to bring people in and have a voice, have a seat at the table.

Now, as far as the reaction in the Legislature, none of my fellow Republicans have contacted me to talk about it, not in the way that I might have hoped for, but I wasn’t overly optimistic about that. It wasn’t so much trying to convince my colleagues as trying to shed light on what’s going on in Arizona so that our constituents can make up their own minds and hopefully get involved in the political process and give us help elect pro-choice candidates up and down the ticket. This is really what we need in Arizona and in this country to make real change.

Amy GOOD MAN: In one of the articles, many of you, State Senator Burch, were quoted as saying that “I was told I could choose adoption, I was told I could choose parenthood, which were two things I could not choose. It was cruel to assume that was an option for me when it wasn’t.” If you can explain that, then also what is it like to have these Republicans leave you, one of them, a female state legislator, come in thinking you’re done with your speech, then leave a second time?

SEN. EVA BIRCH: yes So I think a lot of people really don’t understand the ways in which laws can be kind of a weapon against patients, not necessarily ban abortion, but make abortion unavailable or a difficult experience, create a hostile environment for the abortion clinic to confusion has been created in the patient-provider relationship. And we have a lot of that in Arizona. There is this mandated counseling where they have to talk about adoption and parenting as alternatives to abortion, which of course is not always relevant to patients, so medical providers have to be the ones to determine the appropriate counseling for their patients. They should also talk about the likely physical and anatomical properties of the fetus at the time your abortion will take place, which, again, certainly in my case, but in general, is inappropriate and unnecessary. And my pregnancy was not going well. My embryo was dying and not subject to the probabilities of a normal healthy pregnancy, so this information was also just factually inaccurate to me. But that’s what providers are forced to do because of the out-of-touch legislators who have no medical professional background writing the laws and dictating what doctors should tell patients in this environment.

As for my fellow Republicans coming in and out and not really listening to what I had to say, I have a few thoughts on that. One of them is that I think these laws were intended to do what they did. So I don’t think they’re surprised by it or concerned about it. I think that really just reinforces the fact that what they’re doing with these laws is having the intended effects. So I don’t think my fellow Republicans necessarily need to hear what I have to say, because because of that they’re not going to make any changes or do things differently. I will also say that I have a good relationship with a number of my fellow Republicans. We disagree on many things. Indeed, the leadership in the Arizona Senate is so skewed to the right. They are extremists. And they really set themselves up for failure that way. But I didn’t experience anything I didn’t expect in the gym that day.

Amy GOOD MAN: We only have 30 seconds. If you can answer the mifepristone oral arguments in the Supreme Court?

SEN. EVA BIRCH: yeah I mean I can’t believe we’re even talking about this to be honest with you. I mean, mifepristone has – what is it? — 26 years of safety data and is an extremely safe and effective drug. I don’t think we can set that precedent when we allow religious or extremist organizations to be able to turn to heavily biased, Trump-appointed judges and take a case all the way to the Supreme Court. I just hope they do the right thing. It is unimaginable that we are here with the mifepristone case. We use this medicine much safer than so many medicines that you can buy without a prescription. It’s an outrageous conversation we’re having with this. But I hope the right decision is made, but it just goes to show how serious the consequences are when we have someone like Trump creating the highest court in the land for the people of this country. And we have to be so conscious of that and work so hard to make sure we make better decisions in November.

Amy GOOD MAN: Arizona Democratic Sen. Eva Burch, a nurse practitioner, announced in a speech on the state senate that she plans to have an abortion last week to draw attention to the restrictions she and others now face.

When we return to Baltimore, where six workers who were on the Francis Scott Key Bridge when it collapsed are presumed dead, from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Stay with us.

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