Arizona GOP digs an even deeper hole on abortion

The ruling by the Arizona supreme court that an 1864 law that purportedly bans all abortions even in the case of rape and incest has created shock wave in GOP politics. The only exception is to save the life of the woman but, as has been pointed out, this is not as clear cut as it appears to be. It is not always evident at which point the woman’s life is in danger and doctors fearing prosecution may wait until they think death is imminent, which could well result in death or serious complications.

Even serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) and the GOP nominee for governor Kari Lake have said that they oppose the law although embarrassingly for Lake, just two years ago she enthusiastically supported the very same law, even referring to it as section 13-3603, its specific legislative number, showing that she knew exactly what she was supporting.

But because of the furor over this and other abortion bans and the successful voters initiatives even in red states to protect abortion rights, she and SSAT have become very aware that these extreme bans are unpopular and so they have both now called on the Arizona legislature to repeal the law. Lake has even been lobbying lawmakers to get the law repealed, a sign of how desperate she is. But an effort by Democrats to initiate a repeal failed to get the majority needed in the house of representatives. Only one Republican supported it, leading to a tie vote, and the repeal effort failed.

While it may be surprising that the GOP legislators were willing to go against the wishes of SSAT and Lake, one has to remember that these people oppose abortion with a religious fervor. After one vote, some legislators prostrated themselves on the floor of the Senate over the state seal and prayed, even speaking in tongues.

Nicole Narea takes a deep dive into the history of the 1864 Arizona’s abortion ban. She writes that within the context of its time, the law was nowhere near as restrictive as it has been taken to be now, because what was thought to constitute an ‘abortion’ was very different then.

Arizona’s ban, first passed in 1864 and codified again in 1901 and 1913, says anyone who “provides, supplies or administers” an abortion or abortion drugs will face a state prison sentence of two to five years unless the abortion is necessary to save the life of the person who is pregnant. Taken out of the 19th-century context in which it was passed, that language would seem to amount to a near-total ban on abortion.

But that’s not how the law was originally enforced. Few people were prosecuted under the Arizona law or similar ones in other states. At the time, first-trimester abortions were widespread and widely accepted in the public conscience.

For much of the first half of the 19th century, there were few laws in the US that were specifically concerned with abortion. Rather, abortion was understood in the tradition of British common law: It was only a crime after “quickening,” when a fetus’s movement could be detected — around four or five months of gestation. Before quickening, people could be ignorant (or have plausible deniability) about being pregnant.

Generally, the American public at this time had few moral qualms about abortion before quickening. In particular, it was a service that many believed should be offered to unmarried women, who risked reputational ruin if they proceeded with the pregnancy and often came from poor backgrounds, as historian James Mohr writes in his 1978 book, Abortion in America.

Arizona isn’t alone in dealing with a pre-Roe anti-abortion law. Oklahoma is currently enforcing a 1910 abortion ban. Wisconsin’s Democratic attorney general has asked the state Supreme Court to strike down that state’s 1849 ban. Delaware, New Mexico, and Michigan have repealed their pre-Roe bans only in the last few years. West Virginia’s 19th-century ban was blocked in court in 2022, but the state legislature moved quickly to codify a new abortion ban that allows few exceptions.

“These laws are being upheld as proof that everyone was completely against abortion in all cases, from the moment of conception,” Withycombe said. “Given the understanding of human development at the time, that is not true in the 1860s.”

The Arizona ban won’t go into effect until at least April 24 under the court’s ruling Tuesday. In the meantime, Democrats in the state legislature want to repeal the law and Republicans have stymied their attempts to do so.

The GOP is in a bind. Democrats will repeatedly bring up repeal efforts which means that this issue will stay in the news and help the organizers of a petition to put to the voters in November that enshrines in the constitution access to abortion until fetal viability, when a fetus can survive outside a womb. They have already got over 500,000 signatures, more than the roughly 400,000 needed, but they are going to keep going.


  1. Silentbob says

    Before the usual transphobes weigh in, there is nothing wrong with Mano’s use of “woman” in the first paragraph (IMHO), because it correctly identifies the intended targets.

    There is a huge difference in correctly referring to women as the targets of misogyny, and dogmatically insisting all people of other genders must be erased and excluded because of irrational prejudice.

  2. Acolyte of Sagan says

    You must be getting confused, Silentbob. It isn’t the gender critical who object to the words ‘woman’ and ‘women’ in relation to pregnancy. They insist on it, in fact.

  3. Matt G says

    I wonder if Arizona will experience the same exodus of OB/GYNs as other states. Unintended consequences….

  4. birgerjohansson says

    Matt G @ 4
    The amorphous lump formerly known as GOP has “unintended consequences” as their ideology.
    Apart from pandering to corporate donors/ pandering to ignorant religious bigots they no longer spend much time thinking about what they support.
    When it bites them in the ass it is hilarious.

  5. Holms says

    I can never looking at an adult ‘speaking tongues’ and take that adult seriously thereafter.

  6. Silentbob says

    Speak of the devil. X-D

    Predictable aren’t they.

    For the hard of understanding:
    1) Nobody is avoiding the word “woman”.
    2) Attacks on reproductive rights are misogynistic in nature -- they are attacks on women.
    3) All people capable of pregnancy need the same associated rights regardless of gender.
    4) Therefore gender neutral language should always be used to describe who is entitled to such rights.

    It’s not that hard guys.

    “Republicans want to deny women reproductive rights.”
    Not bigoted.

    “Women should have a right to an abortion.”
    All people capable of pregnancy should have this right, regardless of gender.


  7. birgerjohansson says

    Holms @ 6
    Some pagan and shamanistic religions also practice ‘speaking in tongues’.
    We should sponsor such candidates under the slogan ‘we speak more in tongues than Republicans do’. If you add Mongolian throat singing to the Arizona senate it would be a step up.
    Also, if we are to bring religious traditions into politics I found a character I would vote for over any Republican.
    Hehe, “morning star”.

  8. Deepak Shetty says

    the law was nowhere near as restrictive as it has been taken to be now, because what was thought to constitute an ‘abortion’ was very different then.

    That is not the conclusion that expert historians Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito will come to though. You have to find a 18th century witch trial judge and see what they thought.

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