Breaking News
More () »

'Don't send a patrol car': Phoenix 911 dispatchers get guidelines for handling reports of illegal abortions

Dispatchers are told not to a send patrol car, according to a document obtained by 12News. City council could vote Oct. 11 on "deprioritizing" police enforcement.

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Police Department is now telling 911 dispatchers how to handle callers reporting an illegal abortion.

The instructions: Don't send a patrol car. Hand off the report to higher-ranking officers. 

This comes ten days after a Pima County judge allowed a near-total abortion ban to take effect in Arizona. 

RELATED: Arizona judge: State can enforce near-total abortion ban

But new guidance for dispatchers and Phoenix police might be in the works.

The Phoenix City Council is expected to discuss and possibly vote at a meeting on Oct. 11 on a resolution to deprioritize enforcement of the state’s abortion laws. 

A yes vote on the resolution could trigger a confrontation with Republicans in the Legislature.

Here’s what we know:

'Medical Practice Violation'

12News obtained the Police Department instructions that were emailed to dispatchers last Thursday.

The bullet points: 

  • The guidelines spell out how to handle a call about a “medical practice violation” - an alleged abortion.
  • The dispatcher should document basic information.
  • Patrol officers won't be dispatched for any alleged violation.
  • A lieutenant and sergeant will be notified and then assign an investigator.

According to the city manager’s office, there haven’t been any abortion-related calls to 911.

Credit: 12News
These instructions for handling and coding abortion-related calls were emailed to 911 dispatchers by the Phoenix Police Department on Sept. 29

Instructions like these are typically issued when a criminal law takes effect, according to the city manager’s office. Dispatchers get guidelines and a new code number for the violation. 

Councilwoman: Don't use city resources

Phoenix Councilwoman Yassamin Ansari understands why dispatchers need a plan. But she’s one of the council members, including Mayor Kate Gallego, leading the push to change it.

“It is important for city departments to respond. And in case we do start getting these calls, they have a plan in place,” said Ansari, who represents District 7.

But she adds: “I do not believe that city resources should be expended to criminalize abortion.”

Herrod: Patrol should respond

Arizona's leading abortion opponent, Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy, says the 911 call for an alleged abortion should be treated like any other crime.

“I question why a patrol officer would not be dispatched,” she said. 

“The investigation should be immediate, or else the crime is going to continue.”

Resolution set for Oct. 11 meeting

The resolution is expected to come up at the Oct. 11 council policy meeting. A “yes” vote by the nine-member council would put the resolution into effect.

Gallego, Ansari, and other City Council members are working on a resolution that would put abortion calls at the bottom of the police priority list.

“In terms of calls that are coming in just to attempt to criminalize a doctor or somebody who has sought an abortion, those will be deprioritized,” Ansari said. 

The resolution is expected to come up at the Oct. 11 council policy meeting. A “yes” vote by the nine-member council would put the resolution into effect.

The Tucson City Council shut down abortion enforcement in early June. 

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s eventual decision on Roe vs. Wade was leaked, the council barred any arrests by Tucson police for allegedly illegal abortions.

Republicans could target cities

Both Tucson and Phoenix could become targets of Republicans in the state legislature. 

“If any government entity declines to follow the abortion law,” Herrod said, “I think that will be a matter to be addressed by lawmakers when they go into session.”

Republicans have used the so-called “SB1487 investigation” as a weapon against government bodies that they believe are breaking state law.

The law requires the attorney general to investigate the legality of any action by a county, city, or town at the request of a state lawmaker from anywhere in the state.  

The government body could lose state aid if it doesn’t comply with the AG’s finding.

The midterm elections could determine whether Phoenix and Tucson face challenges.

The attorney general’s office will have a new occupant in three months, either Democrat Kris Mayes or Republican Abe Hamedeh. 

In public remarks, Mayes has taken a dim view of 1487 challenges. She has also vowed to mount a legal challenge to Arizona’s Civil War-era ban on abortion.

Hamedeh has pledged to uphold the abortion law.

The current AG, Republican Mark Brnovich, has served the maximum two four-year terms. 

Up to Speed

Catch up on the latest news and stories on the 12News YouTube channel. Subscribe today.

Before You Leave, Check This Out