After two-and-a-half years, Planned Parenthood will again offer medication abortions in Flagstaff. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the reinstatement comes as the state legislature further restricts abortions in the state.
In 2011, the Arizona state legislature banned nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants from dispensing medication that induces abortions. That made physicians the only medical professionals qualified to carry out the practice. As a result, Planned Parenthood stopped medication abortions at all but three of the organization’s 11 locations in the state.
Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood in Flagstaff again began dispensing the medication after hiring a physician one day a week. That makes the Flagstaff office the only location outside of metro Phoenix and Tucson where medication abortions can happen. Clinician and manager at Planned Parenthood’s Flagstaff Health Center, Beth Otterstein, says the service is an important part of women’s healthcare in northern Arizona.
“We’re not in competition — we are it. We are the single provider of this legal service in this part of Arizona. There aren’t doctor’s offices that are doing the same type of thing. When we aren’t here, this service is not available,” Otterstein says.
Despite the availability returning to Flagstaff, as of April 1, new legislation makes abortion-inducing medication only legal to administer during the first seven weeks of pregnancy. Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood Arizona, says it remains vital.
“We brought the service back online because we believe it’s important that women and families across northern Arizona not be even more victimized by the legislature than necessary. So, our emphasis has been on reintroducing the care and keeping it going,” Howard says.
In January, the Arizona legislature’s limit on abortions at 20 weeks was struck down.