Arizona State Senator Eva Burch Discusses Viral Abortion Speech

Eva Burch

On Wednesday, Arizona State Senator Eva Burch had an abortion. 

Deciding to terminate a pregnancy is a highly personal decision, one that usually takes place quietly, with the involvement of the patient, their medical providers, a cadre of loved ones, and — to the bewilderment and frustration of those seeking the procedure — the government.

Burch’s abortion was anything but a quiet affair. On Monday, just two days before her termination, the Democratic lawmaker gave a viral speech on the floor of the state Senate in which she announced that she was pregnant and that her pregnancy was nonviable, stated her intent to seek an abortion, and skewered lawmakers for supporting “cruel” policies that made an already-difficult situation that much more unbearable. 

“I don’t think people should have to justify their abortions,” she said. “But I’m choosing to talk about why I made this decision because I want us to have meaningful conversations about the reality of how the work that we do in this body impacts people in the real world.”  

“There’s no one-size-fits-all script for people seeking abortion care, and the legislature doesn’t have any right to assign one,” Burch added. 

Despite knowing her pregnancy was nonviable, Burch, a nurse practitioner by trade, was still forced to jump through the many bureaucratic hurdles imposed by the Arizona law on women seeking to terminate their pregnancy: a 24-hour waiting period, an invasive transvaginal ultrasound, counseling on adoption and parenting, and a readout of the supposed physical characteristics of her developing fetus. 

In a phone interview with Rolling Stone, Burch discussed her experience, her decision to speak publicly on her decision, and the future of reproductive rights for Arizonans. 

What did you first feel like when you found out you were pregnant? 

I was initially surprised when I found out that I was pregnant. I was having pregnancy symptoms and took a pregnancy test at work — because we have them here — and I brought it up to a couple of the girls up front, and I said, “Does this look positive to you?” Because it was just so faint.

Everybody just sort of freaked out about it, and of course, was excited and giving me hugs and I just felt really overwhelmed. [My husband and I] had tried really hard two years ago to get pregnant and just had a lot of disappointments and failures. So to be in a situation where we weren’t even actively trying and to find out that I was pregnant was exciting. I was just really excited to tell my husband.

I was also cautious and definitely felt skeptical. I didn’t want to commit to an emotion about it, but you can’t help yourself. I love my husband and I have two children of my own, but he doesn’t have any biological children. The thought of being able to raise a child with my husband, who I love so much, was definitely appealing. I didn’t want to get too committed to that idea because I knew how hard it was going to be if it didn’t work out.

And from there to finding out the pregnancy wouldn’t be viable, what was that like? 

I found out that I was pregnant very early. I hadn’t even missed a period when I had the positive pregnancy test. So I started making calls to try to get in to see an OBGYN and was having a terrible time finding someone who would see me before 10 weeks. I knew that I was high risk and that there was potential for me to be in a position where I was looking at another miscarriage, and I didn’t want to wait that long. 

Luckily, I was able to get in rather quickly in one location and I was able to have my first ultrasound. I was measuring small. I knew I was further along than what the ultrasound was reading. And then — I’m going to call it a heartbeat, because it’s just easier for people to digest and understand — but the group of cells that would have one day become a heart was fluttering at maybe 70 beats per minute, which is so much slower than what you would normally anticipate.

So we got some blood, and two days later did another blood draw, to see if my HCG was increasing the way that it was supposed to, and it wasn’t. And my progesterone was actually decreasing. I had another ultrasound a week later and, again, didn’t look good, measuring small, the heartbeat was even slower the second time around. And it was really at that point that we knew that this was not going to be a viable pregnancy.

At that point did your doctors advise you to terminate? 

My doctor didn’t advise me that termination was necessary for my own safety. It’s really that I knew what my options were because of my own experience as a medical provider, and as someone who has experienced pregnancy failure before.

I was interested in seeking out options myself and went to do an initial visit and a counseling session at Planned Parenthood. We did another ultrasound and at that point the sac was really oversized, and the fetal pole was really small, and the heartbeat was even slower. It was just continuing to look very dismal, so we scheduled the procedure for Wednesday. I just had the procedure two days ago. I’m very comfortable sharing that information.

And at that point, you’re entering bureaucracy territory. What was the shift like from making your decision to having to jump through all the legal hoops? 

I knew what I was walking into — I was eyes wide open when I went into that clinic — but it still shocks me what these providers have to say to patients. There’s just no getting over it. You can’t just intellectually know what you’re gonna have to hear and then be comfortable with it. It’s uncomfortable and painful to have to listen to these providers going through this. 

This poor medical provider had to tell me what the probable fetal anatomical properties of my fetus would be at the time of the abortion. It is medically unnecessary for a start but also — in my case — was factually inaccurate because my embryo was dying and was not subject to the normal parameters of a healthy pregnancy. It’s just so cruel and unnecessary. 

Then, of course, having to tell me that I could consider adoption and parenting as options, which in my case is obviously outrageous. I would have loved to consider parenting as an option, but that was not realistic for me, I was going to have a miscarriage, it was inevitable. And if I didn’t have a miscarriage, then I was going to be in trouble. But that’s not the conversation that my doctor gets to have with me. 

How did the procedure go? 

I went in super early in the morning. We had to drive by a small parade of protesters, people there with signs and shouting at me. It was indiscernible for me, I don’t know what they’re saying. The Planned Parenthood escorts are there and they have masks on, and these big umbrellas to help shield you from people that are there as spectators and protesters and they walked me to the front door. 

The staff was absolutely phenomenal. I felt so much love, respect, and appreciation from the staff at Planned Parenthood. They really cared about my experience and about making sure that I felt comfortable, that I felt well informed that I had all my questions answered. They talked me through the entire process every step of the way. 

I was conscious throughout the entire procedure. I wouldn’t call it comfortable, but I also wouldn’t call it painful. It was quick, and it was as comfortable as it could be under the circumstances. I think the reason that I felt so safe and so comfortable was that I was the only legislator in the room.

This brings us to your speech early this week. Why go public in this manner? 

When I stood up to give that floor speech I was essentially agreeing to share my journey with a much larger audience than what I think most people would feel comfortable with. But I honestly wanted to bring people along with me. I want people to better understand what abortion looks like in Arizona and the role that abortion plays in healthcare. 

I’ve been a patient, a medical provider, and now a lawmaker. And I’ve been able to experience first-hand how our decision-making has failed the people of Arizona from so many different angles. I feel this obligation to the people who elected me to do what I can to be an advocate, and this was that opportunity.

I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that, at least in the state of Arizona, the legislature is run like a monopoly. We are a fairly balanced legislature. The Republicans only have a one-seat majority in both houses. But the Republicans control everything. So there really aren’t a lot of opportunities for Democrats to do their jobs in the legislature because we aren’t allowed to. And I don’t think that most people in Arizona really know that that’s how lawmakers are running the legislature … [and] I genuinely believe that the majority of Arizonans are not being represented. 

I think we’ve seen that throughout the country, especially on abortion. A lot of states have successfully used ballot initiatives to codify reproductive rights into their constitution, and a similar effort is being waged in Arizona.

That’s what I’m anticipating. But to that point, the hoops that [constituents] have to go through in Arizona to be able to get a citizen initiative on the ballot are pretty sensational. They have to have hundreds of thousands of signatures, they have to go to all these different counties to make sure that they have the right numbers in order to qualify. 

We’re looking at the possibility right now that the Republicans are just going to put a competing ballot initiative on the ballot, and the process in Arizona allows them to do that without collecting a single signature. Republicans can, by simple majority, put whatever they want on the ballot. The governor doesn’t have to approve it, it can be completely partisan with only Republican votes, and we are potentially looking at a three-page ballot full of these ballot referrals from the legislative Republicans. 

There is no balance in this system, where citizens have to put in thousands of hours of work, but Republicans can take a completely partisan bill and put it on the ballot, with no effort at all.

And on top of that states are contending with national efforts by Republicans to place more limits on abortion access — like the 15-week ban Trump is teasing. 

It shows me just how delusional that thinking is around abortion, that people who are against abortion really do seem to think that everybody must secretly agree with them — because they keep digging their heels in on this issue. 

Abortion bans are incredibly unpopular. Most people, whether or not they would personally get an abortion, believe that decisions about abortion should be between a patient and a medical provider. [Republicans] are still waiting to find out that that’s not really how people feel, and I think they’re going to be sorely disappointed.

Yeah, it feels like in a lot of ways they’ve really lost the plot, especially when you see things like the Alabama IVF ban. 

These ideas are really unpopular, and I think they’re putting all their chips on the wrong issue. But I do think that there’s some merit to that people are a little disenchanted with the presidential campaigns right now. I think that we have a lot of people who are not excited about voting for president in 2024, and it’s so important to give people something to care about — something to show up for. 

I really believe that this ballot initiative is what we need to be able to accomplish that, and I am just so thrilled to have been able to have this platform now to help promote and support this initiative that I believe in so much.

What has the reaction from your constituents been like? 


I am flooded with emails, private messages, texts and phone calls. People who I haven’t heard from since high school, people who I don’t know at all. They are mostly thanking me, but also sharing their own stories and telling me that they’re so grateful that their own story now has a seat at the table, that they get to be part of this larger conversation and part of this picture of what abortion looks like.

When I walked into that clinic, it was really clear to me from what the Arizona legislature has required doctors to say that they were trying to tell me who I am. They have this picture in their head about what the abortion patient looks like, and that it’s really ugly and unfair and untrue. I think that the response that I’ve had from so many individuals is just them telling me who they are, and taking the opportunity to say, “That’s not who I am. This is who I am.”

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