life after roe

Why an Arizona Senator Spoke About Her Planned Abortion

Eva Burch
Photo: Ross D. Franklin/AP

Democratic lawmaker Eva Burch stood on the Arizona Senate floor on Monday and did something unprecedented: She announced to her colleagues that she’ll have an abortion this week for her nonviable pregnancy. Burch, a 43-year-old nurse practitioner who was elected to her seat in 2022, says she chose to share her experience on the record to remind her colleagues of the harm abortion restrictions cause to pregnant people and their families. “I am a typical person seeking abortion care,” she tells the Cut. “There’s nothing extraordinary about my situation.”

Like many patients, Burch has undergone a range of reproductive experiences at different points in her life. She’s had several miscarriages, used assisted reproductive technologies, given birth to two boys, and sought out abortion care twice. The first time Burch tried to terminate a nonviable pregnancy was while she was running for office nearly two years ago. She began miscarrying the night before her scheduled abortion, and she says that doctors waited until she was in a critical condition to terminate. Two weeks later, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Had Burch tried to seek an abortion then, she wouldn’t have been able to, because Arizona’s clinics shut down while they waited for state courts to weigh in. Today, a 15-week abortion ban is in effect, and the state supreme court is currently considering whether to reinstate a 19th-century law that would prohibit all abortions except in cases where the pregnant person’s life is at risk.

Burch, who is now about eight weeks pregnant, plans to get an abortion in Arizona. She spoke with the Cut about the barriers she’s faced when trying to get care, why she revealed her plans to the legislature, and the response she’s received since sharing her emotional story.

What drew you to becoming a lawmaker?
I have been really passionate about the nursing industry since I got started in the emergency department. What got me interested in politics from a health-care perspective was watching how patients were treated, how they had different outcomes and different treatment plans based on things that I didn’t think should matter, most notably insurance status. But there were a number of disparities that I saw: language barriers, gender and ethnic disparities, food insecurity, and education levels. There were so many things that seemed to really impact the care that people received, and that got me interested in taking that work into politics to try to advocate for my patients in a more comprehensive way. Being a patient advocate is the most important thing to me in my career. I felt there was a larger platform for me to be able to do that.

In a way, that’s what you did with your speech. You said your fertility journey started more than a decade ago with your first miscarriage. Since then, you’ve become a mom, experienced other pregnancy losses, and sought out abortion care. Can you tell me more about having these experiences at different points in your life?
People who are opposed to abortion try to stigmatize the patient who seeks care. They try to paint an inaccurate picture of who that person is and looks like. It was important to me to broaden that conversation and offer a more accurate representation of what abortion care looks like in Arizona and in this country. I am a typical person seeking abortion care. There’s nothing extraordinary about my situation. There’s not this typical patient who fits this really stigmatizing profile that is being painted by people trying to restrict access to abortion for patients, for families, and for communities. We need to have a more honest and comprehensive conversation of who abortion serves and what care looks like in Arizona.

Can you tell us why you’re seeking an abortion now?
My husband and I tried for a very long time to get pregnant. We did intrauterine insemination, we did ovulation cycle tracking. We knew that I was going to be very high risk. We knew that there was a good chance that my pregnancy was not going to be viable. In this situation, we had ultrasounds, we had bloodwork. It’s clear to us that this pregnancy doesn’t have any opportunity to be successful and is going to end in miscarriage. I’ve had miscarriages before, and for us it was about weighing the risks and the benefits and making the decision that was right for me and for our family. That’s why we made the decision that we did. While I appreciate the input of my family, my community, and the health-care providers, this is my personal decision and I feel really good about it.

I don’t have to go out of state now. That’s a privilege of mine. I caught my pregnancy early and I have access to good medical care. I have good health insurance. I have a lot of distinct advantages that a lot of people in Arizona don’t have. So I do feel lucky I have been able to get the information that I need in a time frame that allows me to have my abortion here in Arizona. But I also know that for a lot of patients, that’s not their story.

What are some of the barriers you’ve experienced when seeking care? Were there any differences between terminating the pregnancy this time and when you’ve sought abortion care before?
My experiences were actually really similar. The primary difference was that I knew what to expect when I went into the clinic this time. I knew what I was going to hear and it made me angrier this time around. As a legislator, I know that the laws we make in this body have led health-care providers to be forced to operate in these circumstances. We have a 15-week abortion ban. There’s no exception for rape, incest, or any other reasonable accommodations. I underwent a forced transvaginal ultrasound. We have a 24-hour waiting period. I don’t think that’s acceptable. The waiting period works in tandem with this disinformation that has to be read off to patients to make them go home and think about it. The intent is to shame, confuse, and frighten patients so that they will make a different decision than the one that they felt comfortable with going into the clinic that day.

What we should be doing here in the legislature is empowering patients and making sure that providers are able to give the most medically accurate, comprehensive care that they can based on the situation that they’re in. We’re doing the opposite of that.

Another major difference was that last time I sought care, two weeks later Roe went down and abortion clinics all across the state shut down completely. That care was no longer available. So it was a much more frightening scenario, with the realization of how different my situation would have been if it had happened two or three weeks later. This time around, I knew I had a platform. I knew I had a voice. It got me just angry enough to use it.

What was it like to tell your story on the senate floor?
I think you can hear in my voice that I was frightened. I’m very comfortable with this subject matter. I can talk about abortion care all day long and not be insecure about it. But when it’s your personal story, you just feel a lot more vulnerable. My voice was shaking, my mouth was dry, and I was taking these deep breaths just to get through it. But I made the decision to do that because, as a health-care professional, a lawmaker, and someone who needs an abortion, I’ve been able to see what this process looks like from just about every angle. I’m uniquely positioned to understand the subject matter, and I am uniquely positioned to act. It is my responsibility to do everything within my power to help advance the rights of patients and providers in Arizona.

We know that abortion bans are incredibly unpopular in Arizona. Arizonans agree largely that health-care decisions about abortion should be between a medical provider and a patient, that the legislature should stay out of it. But that’s not the work we’re doing here in this body. We have this ballot initiative coming up in November, where Arizonans are for the first time going to have an opportunity to weigh in on this outside of the legislative process. It is overdue for us to allow their voices to be heard.

What kind of responses have you gotten, from your colleagues and from your constituents, since sharing your story?
The response that I’ve had has been overwhelmingly supportive. I have had friends, colleagues, teachers from high school, and people I haven’t heard from in a long time reaching out to me. I’ve had people reach out to me to share their individual stories, people who maybe wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing them publicly but are grateful that I was willing and able to do that. I’ve had some negative messages, but they’re just trolling. I’m not insecure enough to be bothered by that.

The story is resonating as much as it is because of all the different states that are in limbo, not really knowing what the future of reproductive health care looks like in their political landscape. It impacts people’s lives in such a critical way: It’s not only whether they want to have an abortion, but whether people want to get pregnant. It’s the question of whether their home state is a hospitable environment for experiencing pregnancy, or if it’s going to be dangerous for them if something goes wrong. Nobody should have to consider that in their decision-making process for whether to start a family. But that’s the reality of where we are in Arizona and in states across the country.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

The Cut offers an online tool you can use to search by Zip Code for professional providers, including clinics, hospitals, and independent OB/GYNs, as well as for abortion funds, transportation options, and information for remote resources like receiving the abortion pill by mail. For legal guidance, contact Repro Legal Helpline at 844-868-2812 or the Abortion Defense Network.

Why an Arizona Senator Spoke About Her Planned Abortion