Women in Arizona are taking to social media, calling friends, reaching out to doctors and flooding Planned Parenthood with questions to try to figure out how the state’s elected officials — the majority of whom are Republican and male — have decided to ban access to abortions.

Many women had no idea their reproductive health rights would go back to what their ancestors had in 1864, to a near total ban, long before women had the right to vote or hold office.

Jamie, just getting off of her shift Thursday at the Food City in South Tucson and still wearing her blue apron, told Arizona Luminaria that she didn’t understand what was happening with the state of abortion law in Arizona.

She didn’t know that after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, Arizona’s Republican attorney general used his Twitter account Wednesday afternoon to inform the public that he will criminalize abortion under a 150-year-old law.

READ MORE >> Arizona AG will criminalize abortion under a 150-year-old law created before women had the right to vote

“I have no clue,” she said. “I know that they’re trying to ban abortions.”

Human and health rights advocates, as well as abortion-rights proponents have vowed to sue Attorney General Mark Brnovich for enforcing the law from when Arizona was a territory, not yet a state.

An Arizona Public Opinion Pulse (AZPOP) survey by OH Predictive Insights (OHPI), conducted this May with 938 respondents, found that 87% of registered Arizonan voters believe that abortion should be legal in some way. That percentage is identical to a similar survey conducted last September. 

Jamie gets most of her news from Facebook, she told Arizona Luminaria, but tries to stick to reputable sources and links.

“I think it’s terrible,” she said. “I think there are going to be back-alley abortions, babies in trashcans, a lot more babies just dropped off. We’re going to see horrible things if women can’t have birth control, and that might be next.”

Jamie has a 15-year-old daughter and is worried about her future. “The government,” she concluded, “shouldn’t be in women’s business.”

Arizona Luminaria spoke to a number of other shoppers going in and out of the grocery store and around Tucson. Women on both ends of the political spectrum struggled with the lack of clarity from state officials, and were frustrated by being left without a clear explanation of the current law.

Denise, who said she is “pro-life,” was shopping with her 13-year-old and 4-year-old daughters, said, simply, “It’s confusing. I don’t understand, I wish I did.”

Judith Burrola, 41, had come for groceries with her daughter Eliza, 17.

“I have three daughters, so I have to follow this news.” But she also wasn’t clear about the current state of the law.

“Did they put something on the books that went back to 1690? No, 18-something,” she said.

Burrola and her daughter checked her phone. Her other daughter had sent an article that explained what was going on, or tried to.

Judith Burrola and her daughter Eliza, outside of Food City, talk about their fear of a post-Roe reality. Credit: John Washington

“I’ve been following since the leak,” she said, referencing the draft opinion of the Supreme Court decision that was leaked months ago. “We kinda knew it was coming, but we’re scared. We don’t know what’s going to happen.”

She wondered if the morning-after pill is now available.

Brittany Fonteno, president and CEO of Planned, told Arizona Luminaria Thursday that women have been reaching out, across all communication platforms, to the organization for help understanding their rights. The organization has seen a spike in women seeking birth control.

Some women are worried that Arizona elected officials will use the new law criminalizing abortion and nearly totally banning the health care procedure as a way to ban access to Plan B, an emergency contraceptive available over the counter. Pharmacies in Arizona have been limiting the quantity people can buy because of a run on purchases since Roe was overturned.

“The next thing they’re going to come after is birth control,” Burrola said. “It’s completely unfair. I’m scared for my daughters. I’m angry.”

She’d drive her daughters, even her daughters’ friends, wherever they needed to go. “We can do that, we have the resources, but not everybody does.”

Eliza, her 17-year-old daughter, who was smiling sheepishly as her mother spoke, turned serious when she considered how state and national officials have taken away her power to choose to give birth and control her own health.

“I don’t have the same rights my mom did. It’s like we’re going backwards in time,” she said.

On the other side of town, Chris Martin and Emily Lyons took off their masks as they exited Antigone Books on Tucson’s Fourth Avenue. They had gone to the bookstore to sign the petition to put reproductive freedom on the ballot in November.

The group gathering signatures for an Arizona constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to abortion will need 356,467 signatures by Thursday, July 7. Their current tally is unclear.

While both Martin and Lyons follow the news closely, they were unclear if the latest law signed by Ducey in March that bans abortion after 15 weeks or the territorial-era law, originally from 1864, was currently on the books.

“It fucking sucks,” was how Lyons summed up her feelings. “It’s hard not to be emotional about it. I have a lot of concerns for what this potentially means for thousands, maybe millions of women. It’s infuriating, but not surprising.”

Inside Antigone, there was a constant trickle of people looking to sign the petition. Melissa Negelspach, who works at the bookstore, estimated that they had gathered just under a hundred signatures.

One woman, Jill Kitchens, who drove to the store, along with Fred Schwalbe, from the east side to look for “a cool pro-choice shirt,” was waiting in line to sign.

Kitchens has been following the news on NPR and social media, but was confused about the current law.

Jill Kitchens and Fred Schwalbe, inside Antigone Books, where they had come to find a “cool pro-choice shirt,” decided to sign a petition to put reproductive freedom on the November ballot. Credit: John Washington

“I hear a lot of different stuff. I’m not sure it’s all true,” she said.

Kitchens and Schwalbe talked about whether the current ban was after six or 15 weeks.

When told that the attorney general was ready to enforce a ban dating from the time before Arizona was a state, Kitchens flinched.

“How can that be? What? What other ridiculous laws can we enforce from back then? It’s bonkers.”

Kitchen said she has a daughter who is still young.

“I want to do anything I can to … to do something,” she said. “I’d take her anywhere, even outside the state, to get her what she needed.”

Asked what states she might flee to, she shrugged. “Maybe Washington?”

Resources for Arizonans seeking an abortion

What do you need to know about the repercussions of the Supreme Court decision for you and your community? Send us a note at info@azluminaria.org


Corrected: Chris Martin’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.

John Washington

John Washington is an investigative journalist with a focus on immigration and borders, as well as criminal justice and literature. His first book, "The Dispossessed: A Story of Asylum at the US-Mexico...