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Arizona Abortion Provider: Texas Ruling on Mifepristone Leaves Patients & Clinics “in Limbo”

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We look at how racial disparities in healthcare treatment and access will shape the impact of anti-abortion rulings with Dr. DeShawn Taylor, an OB-GYN physician, abortion provider and owner of Desert Star Family Planning in Phoenix — the only Black-owned independent abortion provider in the border state of Arizona. Her upcoming book is Undue Burden: A Black Woman Physician on Being Christian and Pro-Abortion in the Reproductive Justice Movement.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! We end today’s show in Arizona with Dr. DeShawn Taylor, an OB-GYN physician, abortion provider, owner of Desert Star Family Planning in Phoenix, Arizona, the only Black-owned independent abortion provider in Arizona. Her upcoming book, Undue Burden: A Black Woman Physician on Being Christian and Pro-Abortion in the Reproductive Justice Movement.

Can you respond to what’s happening right now, the climate we are in, the judge’s decision Friday night out of Texas that would, if it is enacted, overturn a more than 20-year-old FDA decision to make available a pill that is responsible for more than half the abortions in the United States, Dr. Taylor?

DR. DESHAWN TAYLOR: Good morning.

As the founder and CEO of Desert Star Family Planning in Phoenix, Arizona, I have seen for 10 years firsthand how access to the safe and highly effective method of medication abortion with mifespristone and misoprostol improved the lives of my patients. It is increasingly being used for miscarriage management, as well. And it is very disconcerting how the reproductive autonomy of millions hangs in the balance in a case brought by known anti-abortion extremists with no real scientific merit. It is leaving pregnant people in the clinics that provide care for them in limbo as we figure out how this plays out.

The Food and Drug Administration has reviewed mifespristone several times over the 23 years since the medication was approved, and reached the same conclusion as other regulatory agencies in other countries, that medication is safe and effective. And so, it is just extremely heartbreaking to consider the idea that the most common method of abortion across the country could no longer be available to people who need it, especially in this climate that we’re in right now, where there are whole populations, whole regions of the country, who don’t have access to an abortion provider.

AMY GOODMAN: Last week, Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs, now the Democratic governor of Arizona, vetoed Senate Bill 1600, that, if passed, would have forced doctors to treat fetuses that have no chance of survival and require hospitals to report all abortions performed to the Department of Health Services. Can you talk about the significance of the new Democratic governor vetoing this bill?

DR. DESHAWN TAYLOR: My gosh, we are just thankful that we have that protective backstop of the governor’s veto. I will share that we already have a so-called fetal born alive law in Arizona. It was signed by a then-Republican governor back in 2017, I believe. And so, when I saw this bill going through the Legislature, I’m like, “What are we doing here? We’re rinsing and repeating? Like, this is — there are more important things that we need our legislators to be doing when they go to the state Legislature.”

And so, especially in light of us operating under a 15-week abortion ban, really, what S.B. 1600 would do was — would be making more traumatic birth outcomes worse for families that are already suffering, and, honestly, would not have any impact on abortion at all, considering we are providing abortion care in Arizona beyond 15 weeks.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about all these reports that are coming out right now: The rate of Black maternal mortality increased by nearly 26% between 2019 and 2020, Vox reporting Black women seek abortions at the highest rate and will face greater rates of maternal mortality without the right to choose under Roe, and AP reporting if you are Black or Hispanic in a conservative state that already limits access to abortion, you are far more likely than a white woman to have one. And if the U.S. Supreme Court allows states to further restrict or even ban abortions, minority women will bear the brunt of it, according to statistics analyzed by the Associated Press. Dr. Taylor, if you could explain?

DR. DESHAWN TAYLOR: So, these disparities in healthcare in general exist, and so we’re seeing them exacerbated as it relates to reproductive healthcare. We know that Black people are impacted greatly across all areas of healthcare, all disease states. We see that Black people are sicker and are dying more exponentially of — across the board. And so, when we look at pregnancy, we have to understand that some of this mortality is related to the fact that there are inequities in health, in the health of Black people. And so, those don’t disappear automatically once someone becomes pregnant. And so, when we are banning abortion, then what we are doing is we’re creating a situation where people are forced to continue pregnancies that are dangerous to their lives.

And so, we have that part of it, where people are sick and pregnant, but then we also have the inequities in access to healthcare and the treatment of people of color by the medical-industrial complex as it relates to complicit, inherent bias and all these things that people are being forced to check boxes and do DEI about, but, ultimately, the racism in the country is reflected in the medical system. And so we have a whole host of systems that are acting against people of color and increasing their chances of dying during childbirth.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Taylor, I also want to ask you about undocumented immigrants. In New York, there is this real push right now to get the governor, Governor Kathy Hochul, to sign off on healthcare for undocumented immigrants. You are in Arizona, of course, which is, to say the least, a border state, where undocumented people do not have access to healthcare. Can you talk about what access they have when it comes to reproductive rights, to abortion?

DR. DESHAWN TAYLOR: There are a lot of laws that really impact in a negative way an undocumented person’s ability to access healthcare. We have ID laws. We have ICE presence near facilities that provide healthcare. We have checkpoints where people would have to go through, potentially. They just pop up in places. And so, there are a lot of opportunities for people to become ensnared. We have actual evidence where healthcare workers call immigration authorities on patients who are undocumented, who are just trying to take care of themselves. And so, it’s a real obstacle, a real hurdle, for people who are in the country and they’re undocumented. And I always want people to understand that someone’s documentation status does not mean that they don’t have basic human rights to healthcare. And it’s just extremely distressing to see how this plays out.

I will say that we in Arizona have some practical support organizations. There’s a lot of community support to help all people seeking abortion get the care they need, but there are some specific interests in making sure that our undocumented sisters get the care that they need. And also, too, what we’re seeing is an increase in self-managed abortion through herbal remedies and other types of things, as well as misoprostol only, has been increasing over the course of time, just because of all the restrictions that already existed in Arizona.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. DeShawn Taylor, we want to thank you so much for being with us, OB-GYN physician, abortion provider, owner of Desert Star Family Planning in Phoenix, Arizona, only Black-owned independent abortion provider in Arizona. Her upcoming book, Undue Burden: A Black Woman Physician on Being Christian and Pro-Abortion in the Reproductive Justice Movement. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.

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