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Arizona court validates near-total ban on abortion

Photo: Sandy Huffaker archives Agence France-Press Protesters in favor of abortion rights in front of the federal courthouse in Tucson, Arizona, July 4, 2022. (Photo by SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP)

Romain Fonsegrives – Agence France-Presse in Los Angeles

4:02 p.m.

  • United States

Arizona's highest court ruled Tuesday that an 1864 law banning almost all abortions was applicable, a symbolic decision with important electoral implications a few months before the presidential election in this key state in the southwest of the United States.

This law prohibits any abortion from the moment of conception, unless the mother's life is in danger. Rape or incest are not considered valid exceptions.

Having lain dormant for decades, it “is now enforceable,” according to a ruling by the Arizona Supreme Court.

Its judges considered that nothing stood in the way of its application since the constitutional protection of the right to abortion was canceled in 2022, giving latitude to each American state to legislate on the subject.

In reality, this does not mean that this law will be respected. Arizona Attorney General, Democrat Kris Mayes, has long warned that she would not pursue any charges.

But this could change depending on the elections since prosecutors are elected in the United States.

This decision therefore reinforces the electoral stakes as the presidential election approaches, in a key state where Joe Biden won against Donald Trump with only 10,000 votes ahead in 2020.

On Monday, the former Republican president rightly emphasized wanting to give American states a free hand to legislate on abortion, in the event of his return to the White House.

“The States shall determine by vote or by law, or perhaps both. Whatever they decide, it must have the force of law,” he said.

After Tuesday's decision, Joe Biden immediately denounced a “cruel” law.

“This decision is the result of the extreme program of Republican elected officials who are committed to depriving women of their freedom,” he denounced in a press release.

In the process, her vice-president Kamala Harris announced that she would travel to Tucson, in southern Arizona, on Friday for a campaign event in favor of “reproductive freedom”.

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Republican embarrassment

For decades, abortion has been a major battleground for American conservatives. When the United States Supreme Court struck down the federal guarantee of the right to abortion in 2022, many saw it as a major victory.

Since this decision, made possible by the appointments of conservative judges when Donald Trump was president, around twenty states have banned or severely restricted access to abortion.

But this new situation seems to handicap the Republican Party at the polls.

The Democrats did much better than expected in the midterm elections in November 2022, capitalizing on their defense of the right to abortion, and they want to make it a major argument to re-elect Joe Biden .

Aware of this unpopularity, Donald Trump is walking on eggshells.

He gave up his support for a national ban on abortion beyond 15 or 16 weeks, attracting the wrath of radical evangelists and anti-abortion associations.

His protégé Kari Lake, candidate for senator in Arizona, also seems to be putting water in her wine. After describing abortion as the “ultimate sin,” she issued a statement Tuesday saying she “opposes today's decision.”

“This is a very personal issue, which should be determined by each state and its population,” she said.

In Arizona, the new legal framework, according to which doctors performing an abortion theoretically risk two to five years of imprisonment, promises to ignite the campaign.

A grassroots initiative recently announced that it had collected signatures for a referendum to enshrine abortion in the state constitution.

If confirmed, this vote should take place at the same time as the November presidential election.

“This is far from the end of the debate over reproductive freedom, and I look forward to Arizonans having their say on the issue,” Attorney General Kris Mayes said Tuesday in a press release.

“Today's decision to reimpose a law from a time when Arizona was not a state, the Civil War raged, and women couldn't even vote , will go down in history as a stain on our State,” she denounced, reiterating that she would not prosecute any woman or doctor for an abortion.

In neighboring Nevada, another key state, a similar initiative is underway to include the right to abortion in the Constitution.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116