DemDaily: Arizona Supreme Court Bans Abortion

April 11, 2024

The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that a 160-year-old abortion ban is enforceable, catapulting the issue of abortion access to center stage in one of 2024's most critical battleground states, one that could determine the outcome of the presidential election and control of the US Senate.

The ban, which predates Arizona’s statehood, provides no exceptions for rape or incest and allows abortions only if the mother’s life is in danger. The court's written opinion states "physicians are now on notice" that abortions are illegal and additional criminal and regulatory sanctions may apply to those who violate the law.

The 1864 law, titled ARS 13-3603, states: “A person who provides, supplies or administers to a pregnant woman, or procures such woman to take any medicine, drugs or substance,..with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage of such woman, unless it is necessary to save her life, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than two years nor more than five years.”

The Civil War-era provision, enacted long before Arizona became a state in 1912, had been stayed since the US Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which guaranteed women's constitutional right to an abortion.

After SCOTUS' current conservative majority overturned Roe in June 2022, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) persuaded a state judge to lift the injunction blocking enforcement of the ban. His Democratic successor, Attorney General Kris Mayes, took it to the state Court of Appeals, which suspended the law in December 2022.

On appeal the State Supreme Court -- comprising seven members, all of whom were appointed by Republican governors -- overturned the decision, reinstating the abortion ban. The high court, however, put its ruling on hold for 14 days so a lower court can consider “additional constitutional challenges,” including some related to a similar case.

The decision was met with outrage across the state and country. In the normally dignified Arizona State House on Wednesday, chaos erupted on the floor, with the Republican majority thwarting Democrats' attempt to bring a vote to repeal the 1864 abortion ban. Republican leaders called for a recess and adjourned for the week.

Democrats exploded, shouting "hold the vote, save women's lives" and "shame, shame," at Republicans who filed out of the chamber. State Senate Republicans also quashed a motion on a rule change that would have allowed Democrats to introduce a repeal bill.

Fourteen other states are now enforcing bans on abortion in all stages of pregnancy -- with Arizona among the strictest of the top-tier battleground states.

According to an AP VoteCast, 6 out of 10 Arizona voters in the 2022 midterm elections said they would favor guaranteeing legal abortion nationwide. A February 2024 KFF Health Tracking poll found 55% of American voters want the federal government to pass laws protecting abortion access, compared to 25% who prefer no federal action and 19% who want federal prohibitions on abortion.

Reproductive rights advocates have already collected more than 500,000 signatures, far more than necessary, for the Arizona for Abortion Access campaign to add a measure on the November ballot to approve a constitutional amendment protecting the right to abortion until viability.

The Biden-Harris campaign, which has the support of 59% of American voters on abortion, is wasting no time in seizing the opportunity to go on the attack against conservative "extremists,"

Vice President Kamala Harris moved up a Tucson trip, part of her "Fight for Reproductive Freedoms" tour, to Friday, and on Thursday, less than 48 hours after the court's decision, the Biden campaign bought a seven-figure ad buy in Arizona aimed at Trump's appointment of two Supreme Court justices who helped to overturn Roe. On Monday, the campaign released a devastating ad highlighting a Texas woman's hellish ordeal following the state's denial of her medically necessary abortion.

Governor Katie Hobbs (D) called the decision marked “a dark day for Arizona.” and called on the Legislature "to do the right thing now and repeal this 1864 ban and protect access to reproductive care."

Attorney General Kris Mayes said, “This was a seismic decision, and not in the way that Republicans thought it was going to be for Arizona politics and for the election in November. I think this changes everything.”

Mayes has vowed to protect Arizonans “for as long as (they) possibly can” from prosecution as her office seeks a further stay of the law to prevent the ban from going into effect.

"This ruling is a result of the extreme agenda of Republican elected officials who are committed to ripping away women’s freedom. Vice President Harris and I stand with the vast majority of Americans who support a woman’s right to choose. We will continue to fight to protect reproductive rights." -- President Joe Biden

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: New York Times, CBS, AP, AZCentral

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