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Sebastian's Point

Sebastian's Point is a weekly column written by one of our members regarding timely events or analysis of relevant ideas, which impact the Culture of Life. All regular members are invited to submit a column for publication at soss.submissions@gmail.com. Columns should be between 800 to 1300 words and comply with the high standards expected in academic writing, including proper citations of authority or assertions referred to in your column. Please see, Submission Requirements for more details.

The Confusion over Abortion and the Law in Arizona

Jamie Jeffries  |  30 April 2024

 

Arizona abortion laws have never been more chaotic and confusing than they are today. After the overturning of Roe via the Dobbs vs. Jackson case in 2022, Arizona implemented a 15-week abortion limit. Then in April 2024, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that a pre-Roe law from1864, that bans essentially all abortions, is still the law.[i] At the same time groups like Planned Parenthood Arizona and Arizona for Abortion Access have come together to push a public vote on the abortion issues on the ballot in November. If passed the ballot initiative[ii] would replace all current legislation on the abortion issue in Arizona and make the state one that protects abortion as a constitutional right.

 

For the last two years, Arizona has taken the middle-ground approach regarding the abortion issue. Former Governor Doug Ducey signed a 15-week abortion limit into law and until recently the state seemed okay with their mid-second trimester limit. Last year abortion supporting groups announced their intention to reach the required number of signatures to put the abortion issue to the people for a vote. Arizona for Abortion Access announced[iii] they have already collected more than the five hundred thousand signatures necessary to get the Arizona Abortion Access Act on the November 2024 ballot.

 

Arizona being presented with the decision of whether or not to pass such drastic abortion allowances has recently been further complicated by the state’s Supreme Court making a ruling regarding an 1864 abortion law that has been ignored since the early 1970s. The decision from the court[iv] affirmed that in 1864 the first legislative assembly published a code of laws governing the territory of Arizona which included constraints on abortion. That code of laws was never repealed and had simply been dormant due to the federal allowance on abortion that Roe v. Wade granted. Now that Roe has been overturned, the former Arizona law goes back into effect. Thus, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled the law older than the state itself could be reestablished as the law of the land.

 

Of course, Arizona legislators and abortion rights groups took immediate action in filing appeals which prevented the 1864 law from being enacted. While awaiting the appeal process Arizona Democrats presented emergency legislation to repeal the 1864 abortion ban but had to convince a number of Arizona Republicans to side with them on the issue. To no surprise they were successful. Three Republicans, Reps. Tim Dunn, Justin Wilmeth, and Matt Gress crossed party lines to give the Democrats the votes necessary to pass the repeal vote in the Arizona House. Members of the Arizona Senate and Governor Katie Hobbs have vowed to see this repeal effort through until the 1864 law is no longer on the table for Arizona.

 

The legal whiplash over the past eight weeks in Arizona has left voters unsure of the current status of abortion in Arizona and what the rest of the year looks like. As of now, Arizona still has the post-Roe 15-week limit on abortion enacted. This limit having exceptions for saving the life of the mother. Arizona also has a number of smaller regulations on abortion such as a parental notification law, restrictions on discriminatory abortions sought on the basis of gender or disability diagnosis, and the requirement that a doctor be the one to perform the abortion. The 1864 law has not taken effect and in all likelihood will never take effect. It is likely the Supreme Court ruled on this previously ignored dormant law in order to clear the ground for the ballot initiative in November. Now what the public decides will dictate what Arizona’s abortion laws will be going forward.

 

Now, Arizona must focus on this fall. Though the recent Supreme Court ruling and subsequent chaos have the nation’s eye it is the Arizona Abortion Access Act that has abortion opposition in Arizona concerned. The AAA would grant abortion as a constitutional right in Arizona, allow for abortion on minors without parental notification, open the door to taxpayer-funded abortion services, and remove the requirement that a doctor perform the abortion. The sentiment across the state is that while Arizona may want to leave room for some abortion access, this proposal takes abortion allowance to unsafe extremes.

 

Leading the opposition to the Arizona Abortion Access Act is the bipartisan group, It Goes Too Far. Through grassroots and online efforts, IGTF is working to make sure Arizona voters have the facts about AAA before voting this November. Their website states “In an effort to expand abortion, the proposed abortion amendment makes it unsafe for girls and women.  It eliminates long-standing, commonsense safeguards as well as reasonable safety standards at abortion clinics, and it threatens parental rights.”[v]  They further break down the text of the proposal and give legal insight as to why it goes too far.

 

Advocates in Arizona are already joining the opposition and are hopeful Arizona voters will see and vote to protect women from the unsafe lack of regulations the AAA proposes. Lisa Andresen, a pro-life activist based in Chandler said “A lot of people believe the amendment would just put Roe standards back in place. They are missing the fundamental understanding of what it means to change a state constitution to make something a right. Once classified as a right abortion will be almost impossible to restrict or regulate in any capacity. This amendment will mean a massive reduction in standards of care for women and girls and the only ones who will benefit are the abortion providers who will make a lot of money with very little oversight”.[vi]

 

Northern Arizona RN and founder of the woman-aiding non-profit, Queen Esther’s Closet, Monica Cook shared her concerns over the proposed ballot measure stating “Every medical field has standards like parental notification laws and conscience protection for healthcare workers except the abortion field. Why should we vote to expand an industry who already refuses to meet the basic medical standards those working in every other field of medicine meet? There is no benefit to the patient by removing safety standards. This proposed amendment, that would allow non-doctors to perform abortion services on minors without parental knowledge, is an egregious attempt to bypass basic safety requirements in the abortion field. It will benefit nobody for Arizona to have laws that allow for healthcare workers to practice outside their scope of work. The blatant disregard for medical standards is why myself, and so many of my colleagues, are voting no should this issue reach the ballot in November.”[vii]

 

While America watches and zooms in on Arizona’s recent legal battles the people in Arizona seem hyper-focused on what is still to come. If pro-life voters want to stop the Arizona Abortion Access Act they will have to continue to expose the text of AAA.  Over the coming months, the It Goes Too Far campaign is expected to release more legal analysis and provide deeper insight as to what could be the future in Arizona. One thing is certain though, the 2024 legal battle in Arizona is not the legislative battle over the 1864 law but rather the vote to come. The public’s say in November will likely be what dictates the future for Arizona. So, while the rest of the country is screaming about what is happening, those within the state are paying less attention to the 1864 smoke screen, and are staying focused on the real battle at hand. The message from those working in Arizona is clear: Stay calm and vote no this November.

______________________

[i] See https://www.azag.gov/issues/reproductive-rights/laws

[ii] See I-05-2024 Arizona for Abortion Access.pdf, Retrieved on April 29, 2024, https://apps.arizona.vote/electioninfo/assets/47/0/BallotMeasures/I-05-2024%20Arizona%20for%20Abortion%20Access.pdf

[iii] Baker, David & Robinson, Sarah, “Enough Signatures Collected to get Abortion Proposal on Arizona Ballot, Advocates Say”, Arizona’s Family, April 2, 2024, retrieved on April 30, 2024, https://www.azfamily.com/2024/04/02/enough-signatures-collected-get-abortion-proposal-arizona-ballot-advocates-say/

[iv] Billeud, Jacques & Copper, Jonathan J., “Arizona House Advances a Repeal of the State’s Near Total Abortion Ban to the Senate,” AP News, April 24, 2024, retrieved on April 29, 2024, https://apnews.com/article/arizona-abortion-1864-ban-repeal-lawmakers-84b0cd9a8c44ddaefed2c45e9eff1c79

[v] See https://www.itgoestoofar.com/how-it-goes-too-far

[vi]See  https://www.tiktok.com/@lifeunlimited_pla

[vii] See https://www.queenesthersclosetaz.com/

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