Unintended Consequences Will Follow Loss of Abortion Care in Arizona (video)

Rep. Pam Powers Hannley

“Parental choice!” is the rallying cry for Arizona Republicans who promote spending state tax dollars to pay for private and religious schools.

Republicans shout “My body! My choice!” on the Floor of the Arizona House when they rail against wearing facemasks to prevent the spread of COVID.

They cry for the freedom to be unvaccinated — against COVID, measles or anything else.

They exercise their power to protect their right to carry assault weapons to the grocery store and to keep guns cheap and plentiful in Arizona.

BUT when it comes to reproductive rights and body autonomy for women, Republicans insist on government control over family planning choices that are NONE of their business. This is the height of hypocrisy. Government has no right to insert itself into private medical decisions.

News Flash to the #AZGOP, the Ultimate Parental Choices Are:

  • IF you want to have a child, 
  • WHEN you want to have a child, and
  • WHO the other parent will be.

With the June 24, 2022 decision striking down Roe v Wade, the US Supreme Court took these basic parental choices out of the hands of the American people and placed them in the hands of state governments. Government-mandated childbirth is wrong on so many levels. I am shocked that we as a country cannot agree on this. My Libertarian Dad used to say, “Your rights end where my nose begins.” My parents were Eisenhower/Goldwater Republicans, who had a “live and let live” philosophy. They were fiscal conservatives and social liberals. They believed strongly in public education, unions and the separation of church and state. They would not be aligned with the corporate tax giveaways and religion-based social engineering that the Republican Party champions now.

Thanks to fetal personhood pledges, millions of dollars in dirty money campaign donations, primary challenges by ever-more-radical Republicans, and the nefarious efforts of Senator Nancy Barto and right-wing lobbyist Cathi Herrod, Arizona is the most “pro-life” state in the US.

A cascade of unnecessarily cruel anti-abortion laws — some from the 1800s — are still on the books in repressive states like Arizona. For nearly 50 years, these archaic laws have been held in check by the Roe v Wade decision in 1973.

Due to layers of conflicting and confusing anti-abortion laws in Arizona statute, Planned Parenthood of Arizona announced on June 24, 2022 — the day the US Supreme Court struck down Roe v Wade — that they would suspend abortion care in Arizona immediately.

If it stands for any length of time, this SCOTUS decision will have ripple effects throughout our society and cause many unintended consequences. We can predict that there will be thousands of unintended pregnancies; increased premature death from botched abortions, domestic violence, and suicide; and ballooning healthcare costs for additional live births (50% of which are funded by AHCCCS); more at-risk pregnancies and births; more medically fragile newborns; and long-term care for those medically fragile newborns that live more than a few hours after birth. There is a hefty public health price tag for this judicial decision that is based in the mystical religious belief that life begins at conception, rather than at first breath, when the fetus is detached from its mother and becomes a separate being.

Behavior Change Is Coming

What are the unintended consequences of removing abortion care as a means to stop an unwanted pregnancy? As people shift toward prevention strategies, I predict the loss of reproductive rights in the US will result in massive societal changes and shifts in the population, as people try to avoid repression.

Without Roe, anyone who gets pregnant in Arizona will be forced to carry the fetus to term — regardless of whether or not the person intended to get pregnant; if the person was raped; if the person is underage; if the fetus is healthy and viable beyond birth; or if the fetus could live an independent life without continuous medical care and assistance. My hunch is that the threat of government-mandated pregnancy will encourage people — regardless of gender — to change their sexual behaviors to prevent unintended pregnancy.

If Congress does nothing and this SCOTUS decision stands for five or 10 years, there could be dramatic changes in how people lead their lives, who they choose as marriage partners or lovers, and where they choose to live, go to college, spend their tourism dollars or locate their businesses.

Let’s do some brainstorming on strategies to avoid unintended pregnancy (other than birth control, which is also coming under attack from the religious right).

Will there be less traditional heterosexual intercourse? Totally possible. After all, politicians, right-wing radio hosts and grandpas on Facebook are continuously telling women to hold an aspirin between their knees to prevent pregnancy. They could get what they’ve been asking for. There are many activities consenting adults can do together that can bring mutual pleasure without fertilizing any eggs. Obviously, SCOTUS has dealt a big blow [no pun intended] to the “no strings attached sex,” hook-up app lifestyle. I think people will changes their behaviors to stay safe. I think removing the abortion safety net (and perhaps even contraception) will result in less unprotected sexual intercourse and perhaps less intercourse outside of marriage. I’m not saying people will have less sex, just that there could be more experimentation with pleasurable acts that don’t make babies. Increased sexual experimentation is probably not what the religions right had in mind when targeted reproductive rights.

Will there be an increase in voluntary sterilization? For people of any gender, who don’t want children or don’t want more children, voluntary sterilization is the best preventive option if you want to avoid getting entrapped by unfair state abortion laws. Arizona’s anti-abortion statutes are so cruel that they include laws criminalizing abortion with no exceptions for rape, incest, or miscarriage. Even Lesbians and trans men — people who generally choose to not have heterosexual intercourse with cis gender men — are at risk for an unwanted pregnancy and forced childbirth in Arizona. Anyone capable of creating or baring children, who doesn’t want to, should consider a vasectomy or tubal ligation to avoid government entrapment. Will dating apps have a checkbox for vasectomy in the future?

Will we see a rise in same sex couples and gender fluidity? I know a few young single women who describe themselves as “dating men and women.” I think this trend will increase. I don’t know what the percentage is, but I’m sure there are many adult women who have considered bisexuality or trading in men for women companions. In the Victorian Era, it was not uncommon for married and unmarried women to have female companions. Sometimes, the women were lovers, sometimes just good friends and living companions. I think we could see an increase in different types of relationships and living arrangements — particularly in uncertain economic times and skyrocketing housing prices.

Will people make relocation decisions based upon a state’s abortions rights status? Oh … I totally think this will happen. I moved to Arizona with my partner, my college degree and my camera equipment when I was 30 years old. My 30-year-old self wouldn’t come here now! Besides the air pollution, water shortages, and underfunded public education, Arizona has gotten significantly more repressive and backward in the 40 years that I have lived here. Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s pronouncement that without Roe, women’s rights in Arizona will go back to 1901 was the icing on the cake.

Will our universities be able competitive in recruitment if Arizona proudly stands as one of the worst states in the US for women’s rights and reproductive choice? Why would any forward-thinking young person move to or study in such an oppressive state? Why would forward-thinking corporations locate in such a backward state? Low taxes only go so far. Yes, some corporations have announced that they would pay for abortions for employees who have to travel out of state for abortion care. This corporate gesture is about keeping their workforces stable; it’s not about helping the employees. Besides, employees should not have to reveal their medical status to employers. You can bet that there will be a note in that person’s personnel file that the corporation paid for an abortion. This is a privacy issue.

Will the birth rate go back up? Nationwide the birthrate has been on a downward trend for more than a decade. The religious right wants American women to have more babies. Let’s go back to the ’50s! If you want a glimpse into the lives of women before hospital delivery, birth control, workplace harassment laws, and abortion on demand — when surprise pregnancies were common — watch the PBS series Call the Midwife or Mad Men. Call the Midwife shows the variety of reactions and emotions that a surprise pregnancy elicits from women of different ages and living situations when they have no choice but to carry the fetus to term. Mad Men shows entitled, powerful men being sexually aggressive with every “pretty young thing” who works for them. It also shows how the women used their sexuality — or took great pains not to — as they navigated the shark-infested waters of Madison Avenue in the 1950s-60s, when few of them rose above the secretarial pool and a pregnancy could get you fired.

Overall, it’s a good thing the birth rate is down. It could be a sign of better access to birth control, fewer unintended pregnancies, fewer teen pregnancies, and more intentional family planning. Housing costs are high, and wages are low in Arizona. Taking on the financial responsibility of raising a child should be an intentional choice made by two people — not a choice forced by government regulations that are based in religious beliefs.

If there are societal shifts away from heterosexual intercourse, toward voluntary sterilization and experimentation in gender fluidity, sexuality, companion relationships, will fewer babies be born?

Where are the comparable laws restricting male reproductive rights? With these life-changing restrictions on women’s reproductive rights, there should be equal restrictions on men’s reproductive rights, but none exist. If existing Arizona laws will put doctors and abortion care helpers in jail and force women to carry unviable or medically fragile fetuses to term, why are there no consequences for the sperm donors who hold 50% of the responsibility for creation of the fertilized eggs?

Single mothers are more likely to live in poverty than anyone else. Although Arizona touts itself as “pro-life,” the state is actually “pro-birth.” Compared to other states, Arizona has some of the stingiest social safety net benefits for the poor, one of the worst records for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and some of the harshest anti-abortion laws. Without the protection of Roe v Wade, Arizona women will be forced by the state to carry all pregnancies to term — even unviable fetuses, who won’t live more than a few minutes or hours after birth and those who are medically fragile and will need continuous care for their entire lives.

Having one healthy baby with an absentee father is physically, financially and emotionally difficult. When women have more than one child with more than one man, everything becomes exponentially harder, and a life of poverty for the mother and her children is more likely. Among the elites, being a Baby Daddy is celebrated. Billionaire Elon Musk (51) has nine children with three different women, including his ex-wife (49), an employee (36), and a young celebrity (34), who no longer speaks to him. Musk obviously has money to spread around amongst the three mothers and nine children, but children need more than money to thrive. Look at the sad childhood stories generations of the Trump family. Children are people — not trophies to masculinity. They need fathers who want to be fathers.

What about impotence? If every pregnancy is a gift from God, so is impotence. Men over age 40 are more likely to have damaged sperm, which can contribute to fetal abnormalities and birth defects. Older men and unhealthy men, who are obese, diabetic, hypertensive, and have other comorbidities, are likely to be impotent more often than younger, healthier men. My suggestion is no Viagra or other impotence reversal drugs or procedures in men over 45 without proof of vasectomy. Old dudes shouldn’t be making babies they won’t be around to care for in the future.

What about prevention? There is a lot of chatter on social media about helping pregnant people obtain abortion care in other states. Before Roe, there was an abortion care underground railroad of people who drove women to less repressive states to terminate unwanted pregnancies. This is a good cause, but our public health goal should to end unintended pregnancy — particularly for anyone under 21. If women can delay the first pregnancy, they are less likely to have children with multiple fathers, more likely to get an education before starting a family, and thus, more likely not to live in poverty.

Arizona is one of a handful of backward states that does not have medically accurate sex education in K-12 school. If the state is going to force women to give birth, the state should provide medically accurate information through the public schools to everyone on sexuality, pregnancy, parenting, healthy relationships, personal finance, and home economics. Otherwise, we’re just strapping young people with physical, emotional and financial responsibilities that they didn’t plan for; that they can’t handle without familial or public assistance; and that has lifelong consequences for three people.

Using multiple types of messaging and offering a variety of strategies, the US Public Health Service and the CDC should ramp up public health campaigns focusing on prevention of unwanted pregnancies. Let’s not wait for “accidents” to happen. While we push for other legal remedies to restore abortion rights for American women, let’s use public health to reduce the enormity of the problem, particularly in repressive states like Arizona.

This Legislative Update video was recorded on June 24, 2022, before the PPAz press conference, before the pro-choice rally and march at the Capitol, and before Arizona Department of Public Safety officers teargassed noisy protesters. These events are in my other video from June 24, 2022, entitled “Arizona Reacts to End of Abortion Rights.”

NOTE: In this article, “woman” and “women” are used on occasion to improve sentence structure or flow; they refer to anyone who has the physical capability to become pregnant. “People” is also used to acknowledge that not all people who can become pregnant identify as “women.”

P.S. I have a Masters in Public Health in Health Education and Health Promotion. My area of expertise at the University of Arizona was behavior change. I taught Personal Health and Wellness at the University of Arizona and at Pima Community College, and I have worked in medicine and public health for 35 years.