Arizona adds to the GOP’s abortion woes

The US has lots of old laws on the books that are terrible, reflecting the awful views that people had in the past. Many of these laws were not explicitly repealed but became inoperative when new laws superseded them. One of the things that the Roe v. Wade opinion did was to lay down a federal standard for when abortions are permissible, making many old state laws on abortion that had extremely harsh restrictions null and void. But with the Dobbs decision repealing Roe, the US Supreme Court removed that federal shield and now the old laws are resurfacing.

The Arizona supreme court dropped a bombshell when, in a 4-2 ruling, it upheld an 1864 law that made all abortions illegal whenever it was carried out and left no exceptions even for rape or incest. The only exception was to save the life of the mother.

An Arizona Supreme Court decision on Tuesday that could end virtually all abortions in the state puts the issue front and center in a 2024 battleground that will play a crucial role in deciding the next president and the Senate majority.

Democrats immediately pounced on the ruling, which will allow a law first passed in 1864 to go into effect. It permits doctors or others to be prosecuted for performing an abortion at any time unless the mother’s life is in danger and does not include exceptions for rape or incest.

Remember that this law was passed way back during the Civil War and before Arizona even became a state in 1912. It is a relic of a time that had very reactionary attitudes on pretty much every major issue of race, gender, and sexuality. And yet it could be the law now in Arizona.

The court also issued a 14-day stay of its order.

The court’s decision prohibits enforcement of the law for 14 days, which the body said would give the parties in the lawsuit time to pursue any constitutional challenges to the pre-statehood law. But that timeline is expected to be extended for at least 45 days after the high court finalizes its ruling, under a decision in a separate court challenge.

The implementation of this old law will undoubtedly cause great hardship to women seeking abortions in Arizona, at least in the short run. The only bright spot is that it may prove to be pivotal in bringing about much greater access to abortion in November. This opinion will give the GOP and serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) even more headaches because very few people support such a total ban. Abortion rights groups in Arizona already had set in motion a referendum on abortion that will be on the ballot in November.

In Arizona, the political fallout of Tuesday’s ruling could be extensive. Biden has put abortion rights at the center of his campaign, as has Democratic Senate candidate Ruben Gallego. It will intensify efforts by abortion rights advocates to put a ballot measure in front of voters that would restore the right to an abortion.

“This will supercharge signature collection,” said Ezra Levin, co-founder of the progressive group Indivisible, which is involved in the effort to add an Arizona ballot measure this fall enshrining the constitutional right to abortion.

Levin said the groups collecting signatures have already collected the 384,000 valid signatures needed by July 4. Now, he said, they’re aiming to hit 800,000 signatures by July.

The law will likely give a boost to Democrats seeking to win the legislative majority, giving them power over election laws in a battleground state.

This is the last thing that the Arizona GOP needed. They had hoped that they could pick up the Arizona senate seat that is currently held by Kyrsten Sinema, who announced her departure from the Democratic party because of the anger that many rank-and-file Democrats had with her for abandoning her earlier progressive stances and becoming a tool for corporate interests once she got into office. The GOP thought that Sinema would run as an independent, thus splitting the pro-Democratic vote and handing the victory to their candidate Kari Lake, a MAGA extremist. But Sinema decided against running and the GOP is losing faith that the erratic Lake can defeat the Democrat Reuben Gallegos.

Now this abortion ballot initiative is likely going to galvanize abortion rights supporters to go to the polls in November, not only further hurting her chances but also the chances of SSAT to win that state’s electoral college votes. Lake is already trying to walk back her earlier rigid stances.

In a statement, Lake said that she opposed the Tuesday ruling. Lake has previously called abortion “the ultimate sin”, but like many other Republicans in the wake of Roe’s demise and abortion rights supporters’ ballot box successes, has moved to moderate her position on abortion policy.

“I am calling on Katie Hobbs and the state legislature to come up with an immediate common sense solution that Arizonans can support,” Lake said. “Ultimately, Arizona voters will make the decision on the ballot come November.”

SSAT must have thought he was being clever when he issued his mealy-mouthed statement that he felt that the abortion issue should be left to the states and not calling for a federal ban. On the surface, it looks like a compromise middle road that seems to avoid him him having to commit to any particular position.

But the Democratic party has seized on his statement and is putting out hard-hitting ads saying that since SSAT has not disavowed extreme bans, that means that he approves of all the extreme measures on abortion that states may now implement and is responsible for them since he was the one who put the justices on the Supreme Court who overturned Roe that allowed this to happen.

Here is one such ad.

This ad campaign seems to have struck a nerve and SSAT’s team has issued a statement accusing the Democrats of lying by selecting only a portion of SSAT’s statement on abortion. Being accused of lying by SSAT is rich. He is the one who has accused Democrats of wanting to execute babies even after they are born, a lie that is ridiculously false.

There is something ironic about this Arizona court decision and the earlier Alabama IVF decision. The GOP has been heavily leaning on conservative courts to aid them in their efforts to ban abortion and other reproductive services. Now they are finding that the courts are going way further than they anticipated and are putting them in situations where they have to either defend the indefensible or backtrack on their earlier strong stances.


  1. billseymour says

    Missouri, where I live, is one of several states that very well could begin enforcing 19th Century anti-abortion laws.  Everybody, please get out and vote against these horrible people.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    The only exception was to save the life of the mother.

    Long-standing pro-choice gripe about semantics: pregnant persons, even before the advent of transgender awareness in general, do not become mothers as such until delivery (unless they already had a child). Describing them as “mothers” plays into the framing of anti-abortion campaigns, tacitly conceding the status of “child” to an embryo or fetus.

    We should note also that the Comstock laws extend way beyond abortifacients, as indicated by the title of the first of the set: Act for the Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use. In practice, this meant prohibition of mailing (the primary distribution mode for all information and writing at the time) anything from reproductive health medical material to whatever-the-nearest-self-appointed-guardian-of-morals-deemed-unacceptable; I wouldn’t put it past many Republican-appointed judges (and “Justices”) to extend such censorship to other media as well.

  3. outis says

    Wull, apart from having to reinsert my eyeballs into my skull when I read this, it could be a good opportunity.
    Opportunity for a lot of people to finally see that the Repubs are, and have been for years, crazier than a sackful of rabid weasels -- and vote them out for-bloody-ever.
    I mean, what’s next? Reinstating the “Ius primae noctis” for El Trumpo when he’s president? Watch this space…

  4. file thirteen says

    “Trump says he would not sign abortion ban if elected” (The Guardian)

    You were the one that enabled the “supreme” court to fuck women’s lives over, you dumb piece of shit

    outis #3:

    Wull, apart from having to reinsert my eyeballs into my skull when I read this, it could be a good opportunity.

    I see what you’re trying to say here, but attempts to put a positive spin on this turn my stomach

  5. Katydid says

    @ Pierce R. Butler, #2: Great point about the use of the word “mother”, which then begs for the use of “baby”, even if it’s a 3-day-fertilized egg. It’s a way to shame women for “killing their baby”.

    It also consigns the woman to ONE ocupation, the easier to confine to the house barefoot and chained to the kitchen stove or the man’s bed.

  6. lanir says

    It would be nice to think that the people who make laws for a living could manage to have a little foresight about the consequences of the laws they make. But that is clearly not the case.

    In fact it’s quite the opposite. I’m just a bit younger than Roe vs Wade, enough so I’m fairly certain my biological mother had a choice about giving birth to me and putting me up for adoption. In the time I’ve been alive I’ve learned an awful lot (I’m sure some of you may still think I’m an idiot -- that’s fine, but I’ll ask you to concede that I’m at least a somewhat informed idiot, if you please). However, in that time the hypocritical minority that wants to call themselves “pro-life” has learned next to nothing about their chosen issue. None of this is new. Pre-Roe, I have to assume that 1864 law was in effect.

    So what’s the solution for these anti-abortion crusaders after almost 50 years to think about it? They don’t have one. They just don’t care enough to solve for even the harshest versions of the thoughtless cruelty they inflict on others. They’re too busy counting imaginary babies saved to notice all the women they’re arranging to murder.

  7. lanir says

    Apologies, a minor correction. It seems based on the Pharyngula post on this that the 1864 law required something to get through the current state legislature before it was able to have any effect. This invalidates my example but not the overall point.

    Roe vs. Wade didn’t reach the US Supreme Court because everyone was in agreement. It made it there because there were stricter bans than this decision allowed. I’m not in the right headspace to wade through malicious idiocy so you’ll have to find your own examples. I’m quite sure they’re out there.

  8. xohjoh2n says

    I see so much coverage of this that, like you, appears to obsess over how “old” this law is and how that somehow decreases its legitimacy.

    Quite frankly, that’s a really dumb argument, really terrible reporting, and a complete failure of critical thinking if accepted by the audience.

    By all means attack bad laws like this, but do so for what they are. Push to have them repealed if you can. But as long as they remain on the books they are, in the eyes of the law, potentially just as valid as any other law.

    After all, the law against murder is much older, but you’d be considered pretty nuts if you argued that meant you should be able to go around killing people because that law can’t possibly still be relevant today, or demanded that a new anti-murder law be passed every so often just to prove that it was still a thing.

  9. birgerjohansson says

    There are old laws that make perfect sense (thou shalt not steal).
    There are laws that change with changing technology (we do no longer have to send a man with a red flag ahead of cars).
    There are laws that change with changing mores (the Romans allowed infanticide while the child was up to one year old).

    This law belong to the third category. And as the cowboy hat had not yet been invented in 1864, a lot of things have changed since then.
    We no longer permit slavery but we do permit homosexuality, for instance. And voting for women (with negative consequences for the Republicans).

  10. JM says

    @8 xohjoh2n: Republicans have latched on to the law having been passed before Arizona was even a state as a way of rejecting or at least having serious concerns with the law without taking a pro-choice position. They are trying to dodge giving any firm answers because being clearly pro-choice or anti-choice are both bad positions for Republicans.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *