Deanna Evans, medical assistant and center manager, sets up a room for an abortion patient on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022 at the Planned Parenthood Tempe Regional Health Center in Tempe, Arizona. Rachel Woolf for CNN
Exclusive: Inside the Arizona abortion clinic with 'nightmarish' atmosphere
02:29 - Source: CNN
Tempe, Arizona CNN  — 

Dr. Jill Gibson is jogging from patient to patient through the complicated maze of exam rooms, wearing navy scrubs, protective booties and a magenta shirt reading “I Stand with Planned Parenthood.” Gibson, Planned Parenthood Arizona’s Medical Director, saw nine patients the day CNN visited their Tempe clinic in late October. Those patients were there to decide how to proceed with a pregnancy, or to move forward with terminating their pregnancy.

Three weeks earlier, the latest in a series of back and forth legal rulings paved the way for the resumption of abortion care at shuttered Planned Parenthood clinics across the state. After the fall of Roe v. Wade in late June, Planned Parenthood closed its four clinics that provide abortion care because of “Arizona’s tangled web of conflicting laws,” the organization’s president and CEO, Brittany Fonteno, said at a press conference at the time. At the end of August, the organization’s Tucson clinic began to offer abortion services again while the court cases continued – and even then, only sporadically – leaving pregnant patients with the choice of traveling long distances for an appointment or staying pregnant. The decision by a Pima County Superior Court judge to temporarily block enforcement of a 1901 law imposing a near-total abortion ban is just the latest move in the uphill battle for abortion access in the state.

"I went home, crying and I felt defeated. I sat down on my couch. And I told myself, I give up. Because I was really at that point where I didn't know what to do," a 25-year-old Arizona resident who didn't have enough money to travel to another state for abortion services told CNN. She ultimately was able to access a medical abortion — two prescription pills to end a pregnancy — in Tucson before a near-total ban on abortions went into effect.

Even after the state attorney general’s office indicating it wouldn’t enforce any decision that could ban abortion outright until 2023, Planned Parenthood Arizona staff say they are exhausted and demoralized navigating the yo-yo of litigation – while a tight Governor’s race could determine if the state outlaws abortion outright. These medical providers who say they are deeply committed to providing equitable access to reproductive healthcare maintain they are seeing the toll of that dedication on their professional and personal lives.

“I’ve watched our staff ride this roller coaster and they’ve done it with such grace and flexibility. But we are tired. You can see it wearing on our faces. You can see it – you can see it in the drooped shoulders,” Gibson said.

“It was almost like waiting for the ball to drop, and you knew it was going to drop, but the anticipation and the stress, leading up to it was almost just as bad or worse than after it actually happened,” said Kischea Talbert, a registered nurse in the clinic, about waiting for Roe v. Wade to fall. “I didn’t realize that that was only the beginning, not the end. And it just has progressively gotten worse.”

Crying on the way home from work, involuntarily losing weight or jolting awake to answer urgent patient calls at 2 a.m. are all ways the unstable abortion access issue is impacting the healthcare providers CNN spoke with. As their fatigue deepens, these providers say they are pushing themselves forward – for the sake of their patients, who at times have no one else to confide in about their deeply personal choice.

Here are some of their stories.