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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Arizona Republicans Face Backlash and Division Over 160-Year-Old Abortion Ban

A group of Arizona Republican legislators seeking to overturn a longstanding state law prohibiting nearly all abortions has encountered unexpected resistance and division within their own party, exacerbated by the involvement of a high-profile Senate candidate, Kari Lake, who has reversed her stance on the issue.

The recent ruling by the state Supreme Court upholding the 1864 law, which predates Arizona’s statehood, ignited a fierce political debate, with Democrats condemning the decision and warning of potential consequences for women’s rights in the state.

As Republicans grapple with the fallout from the ruling, some are seeking alternative solutions, viewing Lake’s support as a potential lifeline. Lake, a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump and a prominent Senate candidate, has reached out to state legislators, offering her backing for efforts to repeal the law and reinstate a 15-week abortion ban.

This newfound alliance represents a significant shift for many Arizona Republicans, who previously celebrated the overturning of Roe v. Wade and supported the restoration of the 1864 ban. Lake herself had endorsed the century-old law during her gubernatorial campaign in 2022 but has since criticized the court’s decision as out of touch with the sentiments of Arizonans.

State Senator Shawnna Bolick, previously aligned with anti-abortion measures, voiced support for repealing the territorial law, marking a departure from her past positions. The Republican retreat underscores the evolving public opinion on abortion, which has become increasingly divisive and politically charged.

However, Republican efforts to address the issue have been met with resistance from within their own ranks. Despite calls from Democrats and advocacy groups to repeal the 1864 ban, Republican legislators swiftly adjourned proceedings and postponed further debate on the matter.

The 1864 law prohibits abortion except to save the life of the mother and lacks exceptions for cases of rape or incest, mirroring the restrictions of the proposed 15-week ban. State Senate President Warren Petersen and State House Speaker Ben Toma, both Republicans, have reaffirmed their support for the abortion ban, emphasizing the need for thorough consideration and public input.

Democrats have condemned the Republican-controlled legislature’s inaction, urging immediate repeal of the ban before it takes effect. Governor Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, criticized the Republican majority for failing to prioritize their constituents’ interests.

Former President Trump’s recent remarks on abortion have further complicated the issue. While initially expressing support for a federal ban, Trump later criticized the Arizona ruling and emphasized the importance of leaving abortion regulations to individual states.

Lake, who previously emphasized her opposition to abortion, released a video attempting to navigate a middle ground on the issue, advocating for exceptions in cases of rape, incest, and maternal health. Her shift reflects a broader trend among Republicans grappling with the evolving dynamics of abortion politics.

Some Arizona Republicans, including Representatives Juan Ciscomani and David Schweikert, have distanced themselves from the near-total ban, signaling a potential fracture within the party. Ciscomani maintained support for the 15-week ban, while Schweikert urged immediate legislative action to address the issue.

Democrats seized on the Republican infighting, accusing them of hypocrisy and political opportunism. State Representative Stephanie Stahl Hamilton highlighted previous Democratic efforts to repeal the territorial-era ban, emphasizing the need for bipartisan cooperation on the issue.

As Arizona Republicans navigate internal divisions and mounting pressure from Democrats, the fate of the 160-year-old abortion ban remains uncertain, with the issue poised to play a significant role in upcoming elections.

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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