/ Modified jun 21, 2024 2:38 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services visits Arizona to talk abortion access

Secretary Xavier Becerra stopped in Tucson and Phoenix for his Reproductive Healthcare for All tour.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra (right) speaks to Dr. Sigrid Williams (left) and Dr. Gayle Dean (middle) about reproductive healthcare access in Arizona during his Reproductive Healthcare for All Tour at the YWCA of Southern Arizona in Tucson on Thursday, June 20, 2024. Arizona is one of six states he will be visiting.
Paola Rodriguez/AZPM News

United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra stopped in Tucson and Phoenix Thursday for his Reproductive Healthcare for All tour that launched this week.

“We think it's important to get to where people are and let them know what the real facts are,” Becerra said. “Too many Americans are confused about what is going on in America when it comes to access to healthcare.”

During his stop, Becerra said that since the overturn of Roe vs. Wade, pregnant women across the country face greater risks due to the lack of access and misinformation. His hope is that this tour will help amplify local voices and connect those in need with services.

“This is to help people understand the facts, make sure they get the correct information, and work with them so they can get the care that they need wherever they might be.”

In anticipation of the Supreme Court’s ruling to decide if abortions are considered emergency healthcare, Becerra said that women are being denied the care that they need.

“In the 21st century, in 2024, we’re talking about whether or not an American will get the emergency care she needs, it’s just not–it doesn’t sound American,” he said. “These women are being denied the care that they need. That's America today, and we'll find out what the Supreme Court says. If it says that that's really America today, that women will not be able to go in. We have taken the position, and that's why we're in the Supreme Court, that every person in America is entitled to emergency care services, period.”

He will be stopping in six states to highlight the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to expand and protect reproductive healthcare access. In Tucson, he was joined by two OB/GYNs, who shared their intimate experiences working with patients whose pregnancies were high-risk and needed abortion care.

“These challenges happen, and we as healthcare providers sit on the verge of what do we do for our patient,” Dr. Gayle Dean, a Tucson OB/GYN said. “We have taken an oath to do no harm, to help our patients, to be there for our patients, to advocate for our patients, but when do we say their life is in jeopardy that I can now intervene? It's hard, it's challenging, it's heart-wrenching.”

“I have seen patients struggle to find childcare, to scrape together money for travel, and to take time off of work,” Dr. Sigrid Williams said. “Many have been and will continue to be unable to access the resources required to obtain critical care, and thus are forced to carry to term pregnancies and raise children that they know that they cannot emotionally, physically or financially support…tragically, I have seen women die from pregnancy. Every woman should have the right to decide whether and when to become pregnant and whether and when to carry a pregnancy to term.”

While Becerra clarified that his visit is considered an official department event, in battleground states, like Arizona, abortion is expected to be one of the deciding issues for voters in this upcoming election. This fall Arizonans are expecting to vote on whether to protect abortion access in the state’s constitution this fall.

“If we have elected leaders who don't address the loss of care for so many people in America, and allow this discrimination and dis-equal treatment when it comes to healthcare to continue, we're putting lives at risk,” he said. “We're putting health at risk, and I hope that in Arizona, every opportunity that Arizonans have, to make it clear to the elected leaders that we need to have access to healthcare for everyone.”

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