Alabama’s legislature passed a near-total abortion ban. The bill now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey.
The landmark Roe v. Wade case was decided in 1973, but Arizona still has a law banning abortion on its books.
Activists believe the ruling could be overturned now that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh has replaced Anthony Kennedy on the high court, giving it a more conservative bent.
One of the intents of the bills restricting abortions that have advanced recently in states like Georgia and Alabama is to get the high court to take up the issue sooner than later.
If the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe V. Wade, the impact in Arizona could be significant and swift, activists say. Arizona since at least the early 1960s has had laws on its books banning abortion and restricting birth control.
Those laws are not enforced, but they were never removed.
“What we learned from before Roe, illegal abortion does a disservice to women’s health and a disservice to women’s autonomy and dignity,” Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager for the national Guttmacher Institute, previously told The Arizona Republic. “That is a lesson we don’t need to repeat learning.”
Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod, whose organization has for years successfully pushed for abortion restrictions at the Legislature, has refused to speculate on what could happen.
“No one can predict what would happen if Roe was overturned,” she has said.
How does Arizona compare?
According to the Guttmacher Institute, eight other states have pre-Roe bans similar to Arizona’s on the books: Alabama, Alaska, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Four states have post-Roe laws that would immediately ban abortion if Roe v. Wade was overturned: Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota.
There are some states with laws to protect abortion rights if Roe v. Wade were overturned: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Oregon and Washington.
Laws against abortion
Arizona’s “pre-Roe bans” declare abortion illegal unless the woman’s life is at risk. It has no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona President Bryan Howard has said the state is one lawsuit away from the bans going back into effect.
“We just need one county attorney to say, ‘I want to enforce this,’ ” he has said.
Handmaids’ Resistance gather at the Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. District Courthouse for a press conference about the SCOTUS vacancy and womens’ rights.
Lauren Castle, The Republic | azcentral.com
Under the unenforced Arizona laws, a person can face time in prison for giving a woman medicine or using an instrument to “procure the miscarriage.” A woman can face up to five years in prison for soliciting medication or drugs, or undergoing an operation that will “procure a miscarriage.”
Howard has called the laws troubling.
“This is not innocent until proven guilty,” he has told The Republic. “This is an instance when the burden of proof, if you weren’t in the wrong, will be on the women. Unfortunately, this is the society that we have inherited.”
He said the burden will be higher on women who are low-income or a minority, and those with history of drug use, because of stigma and judgment from society.
Law against birth control
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There is also an unenforced law on the Arizona books that states that a person who writes or publishes a notice or advertisement for a medication to help facilitate a miscarriage, abortion or for “prevention of conception” can be found guilty of a misdemeanor.
Howard has said it is not surprising there is a law focusing on birth control because many people who oppose abortion also oppose many methods of contraception.
“This will not only criminalize abortion in the first trimester of a pregnancy, this will potentially criminalize women who are using IUDs, women who are using the patch, or a hormonal ring,” Howard has said.
Several states have passed controversial “heartbeat” abortion bills, and several more are considering similar legislation.
Remembering the days before Roe
For Arizona State University Women’s Studies professor Mary Logan Rothschild, the abortion debate boils down to one thing: “Will they be legal and safe or illegal and unsafe?”
She previously told The Republic that she had an illegal abortion in Washington state decades ago. Afterward, she became an advocate for access to abortions.
“We can’t have that happen anymore,” she said.
She said if the decision is given back to the states, the “game is over for Arizona women.”
SCOTUS’ impact on Arizona
If the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, Arizona laws likely wouldn’t automatically go into effect.
Officials may first have to untangle all the conflicting laws on the books that have been passed since 1973.
Nash said before the laws could go into effect, the state attorney general would possibly be involved with putting them into place. It is common for a state’s attorney general to determine how a Supreme Court ruling would impact local law.
“It seems like that could happen fairly quickly,” she has said.
Arizona has passed numerous laws regulating abortions over the past decade, leading the nation with some of its restrictions.
Arizona in the past has been named the nation’s most anti-abortion state by Americans United for Life based on the state restrictions on abortion.
“It would not be surprising for Arizona to continue in that direction if Roe was to be overturned,” Nash has said.
Over the past years, pro-life organizations led by the Center for Arizona Policy have successfully proposed numerous abortion restrictions. The organization advocates on issues impacting religious freedom, marriage and family values and is an influential voice at the Legislature.
“We believe abortion not only takes a human life, but also hurts women,” Herrod has said.
The organization successfully pushed for legislation banning late-term abortions, requiring an ultrasound before an abortion and restricting who can provide medication abortions or perform abortions.
Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, has said that the impact of a Supreme Court ruling in Arizona could be significant because “what was once considered the extreme religious right is now mainstream conservatism.”
“It is disturbing that a woman’s very personal decisions about what should happen to her body can be trumped, literally, by anyone other than her,” Salman has said.
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