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'Five times the phone calls': He might be one of the few Arizona doctors still providing abortions

Days after Roe vs Wade was struck down, Arizona clinics that performed 9 out of 10 abortions have suspended service. Ronald Yunis is hearing from scared patients.

PHOENIX — Ronald Yunis might be one of the few doctors still providing abortion services in Arizona.

"We're getting about five times the phone calls, and we can't accommodate everybody," he said Monday at his Phoenix office, after a full day of seeing patients.

"Patients are scared. They are they just don't know what to think. They're all extremely upset and angry."

RELATED: What could happen in Arizona now that the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade?

Yunis has provided abortion services for 20 years as part of his OB/GYN practice. 

"I take care of women," he said. "My father was an OB/GYN. He did abortions in New York when they were illegal 50 years ago."

Yunis has a warning if abortion is banned in Arizona.

"If this was made illegal, we know what will happen," Yunis said. "It's not theoretical. Women are going to die. It's not a fear. I'm not trying to scare people."

Just days after the U.S. Supreme Court ended women's right to an abortion, Arizona women have few places to turn.

Abortions Suspended at Large Clinics

Planned Parenthood and other large clinics performed 93 percent of all Arizona abortions in 2020, according to the most recent data from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Those clinics suspended their services within hours after the landmark Roe vs Wade decision was struck down. 

They're waiting for Arizona courts and elected officials to decide what the state's abortion law will be. 

The remaining providers, including Yunis, handled only seven percent of all abortions.

RELATED: Tribal lands unlikely to become 'safe havens' for abortion clinics

"It's such a grey area...people are afraid of being jailed," he said.

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell, the top prosecutor in one of the country's largest counties, said there was a thicket of state laws to sort through

"Nobody's dodging this question. It is extremely complicated," she said on "Sunday Square Off."

Herrod: Prosecutors Can Enforce Ban

Cathi Herrod, the architect of virtually every piece of anti-abortion legislation in Arizona over the last decade, doesn't share Mitchell's qualms.

"I believe other county attorneys can enforce the law today," she said in an interview Monday.

"The pro-life attorneys that deal with this issue 24/7 have confirmed my belief that the pre-Roe law would go into effect."

That pre-Roe law is an Arizona abortion ban dating to at least 1901, when the state was still a territory. The only exception is to save a woman's life. Abortion providers could face 2 to 5 years in prison. 

It was widely expected ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the inactive ban - blocked by a permanent injunction in 1973 - would be revived. 

"I'm open to any test of the law," Herrod said.

Yunis' response: "It's a very scary thought." 

He added: "We've contacted several attorneys, we have people that are standing by and they're looking things up." 

You might recall that Yunis was previously in the news three years ago. 

He was accused of flashing a gun at abortion protesters outside his clinic. Court records show Yunis pled guilty to a disorderly conduct charge.

"The bottom line is, when someone threatens your life, you're supposed to be able to protect it," he said.

Adding to the legal muddle over abortion: Both Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and GOP Attorney General Mark Brnovich have indicated that the state's new ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy would be the guiding law once it takes effect in late September.

Doctor Backs 15-Week Ban

Yunis, who describes himself as a conservative, supports the 15-week ban.

In an email response to 12 News, the Arizona Department of Health Services, which regulates abortion providers, says it's preparing to implement provisions of the 15-week ban.

Herrod insists Ducey is wrong on the 15-week ban.

"I can't explain it," she said of Ducey's statement. "I respect the governor and his legal team (but) I disagree."

Herrod said the 15-week ban was designed to go into effect only if Roe vs Wade wasn't overturned.

"The pre-Roe law is the enforceable law," she said.

It's unclear exactly which elected official or court will settle these questions. It's widely agreed that lawsuits are imminent.

Yunis just wants clarity.

"I can't be a game of chicken because nobody wins here," he said.

"It's not fair to the people. It's not fair to patients. It's not fair to anybody."

VERSIÓN EN ESPAÑOL: 'Hemos recibido cinco veces más llamadas telefónicas': Podría ser uno de los pocos médicos de Arizona que aún practica abortos

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