Arizona abortion foes mulling steps after Supreme Court ruling

Abortion opponents in Arizona are carefully mulling a U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows a Texas law banning abortion after a heartbeat can be detected — though they aren’t ready to say whether they would try to pass a similar law here.

The high court late Wednesday refused to block the new Texas law from taking effect, but it did not rule on its constitutionality. The law directly conflicts with Roe. v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case in which the court ruled women have a constitutional right to a pre-viability abortion. A heartbeat can be detected as early as 6 weeks into a pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant and many weeks before the fetus is viable.

A spokesman for Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, an abortion opponent who has signed every bill restricting abortion that has reached his desk in his seven years in office, said Thursday that it was too early to comment on the ruling or whether he would seek similar legislation.

"But you know where this governor stands on this issue," Ducey spokesman C.J. Karamargin said.

Republican Senate President Karen Fann said she had not yet studied the issue but reiterated her stance on abortion.

"What I can tell you is I’m a pro-life person," Fann said. "And I do not think abortion should be a form of birth control. We have so many ways to prevent pregnancies these days, and so just everybody running out to get an abortion whenever they just think they want to get rid of an unborn child, I don’t think that’s acceptable."

The GOP-controlled Arizona Legislature enacts additional abortion restrictions almost each year, and this year is in court defending a new law that bars abortions for genetic abnormalities like Down syndrome. A provision in the law conferring "personhood" on a fetus is also being challenged in a federal lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two doctors who perform abortions, the National Council of Jewish Women, the National Organization for Women and the Arizona Medical Association.

The law is set to take effect Sept. 29 unless it is blocked by the courts. A hearing is set for Sept. 22.

Cathi Herrod, who leads a group that pushes anti-abortion laws in Arizona, said the court’s action on the new Arizona law, the Supreme Court’s decision on a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks it will hear this fall and developments in the Texas case will determine her group’s next steps. The high court’s new 6-3 conservative majority signaled its openness to reconsidering Roe v. Wade ruling when it agreed to hear the Mississippi case, and its refusal to block the new Texas law made it even more clear.

"There’s a lot of activity in the courts on the life issue," said Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy. "We applaud the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Texas heartbeat law, it was the right decision. It’s a novel approach to enforcing pro-life laws. We’ll take a serious look at that approach."

The Texas "heartbeat" law survived, at least initially, because although it bans abortion after about 6 weeks it is not enforced by the state. Instead, the law allows individuals to bring civil court lawsuits against abortion providers or anyone who helps someone get an abortion. It allows awards of at least $10,000. Abortion providers say the legal jeopardy is untenable, and they will stop providing abortion care.

Democratic Arizona Rep. Athena Salman called the high court’s decision "a dark day" for pregnant women in Texas and across the nation.

"The draconian Texas abortion ban is straight out of a totalitarian nightmare where the government pays vigilantes to inform on any woman," she said in a statement. "The Republican party’s contempt for women has never been clearer."

Democrat Katie Hobbs, Arizona Secretary of State and a 2022 candidate for governor, blasted the high court ruling and said candidates need to show where they stand.

"This decision is a clear infringement on our reproductive and constitutional rights and paves the way to overturn a decades-long decision," Hobbs said.

But Kari Lake, a Republican candidate for governor, tweeted her support.

"I would sign this bill in a heartbeat," Lake wrote.

Continued Coverage

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