Some Arizona Republicans change their tune on abortion after state supreme court ban

Some Arizona lawmakers who once supported strict anti-abortion legislation have suddenly changed their tune, denouncing the state’s supreme court decision to revive a 160-year-old law outlawing nearly all abortions.

On Tuesday, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld an 1864 law that criminalises abortion, and those who help women obtain one, over a 2022 law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks. The decision was met with outcry from citizens, Democratic lawmakers, abortion advocates and more across the United States who warned that it would harm access to necessary reproductive healthcare and providers.

For two years, Arizona courts and lawmakers struggled to interpret which law would take precedence after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in 2021.

The 15-week ban, part of the 2022 law, was meant to take effect after the court’s decision but legislators failed to clarify if it would repeal the 1864 law and even wrote in the bill text it did not intend to do so in enacting the law.

Now, the same lawmakers who voted to pass that bill or championed abortion restrictions in the state are criticising the Arizona Supreme Court decision.

Republican state Senator TJ Shope, who voted for the 2022 bill and co-sponsored it, called the state supreme court decision “disappointing” claiming it “ignored our legislative intent.”

The 2022 law includes a line that specifies its construction does not, “Repeal, by implication or otherwise, section 13-3603, Arizona Revised Statutes, or any other applicable state law regulating or restricting abortion.”

Despite this, Mr Shope said he would work with his colleagues to “repeal the territorial law” so that the 2022 law can stand.

Republican state Senator Shawnna Bolick, who also co-sponsored and voted in favour of the 2022 bill, tweeted, “... it is time for my legislative colleagues to find common ground of common sense: the first step is to repeal the territorial law.”

She added that it was “time to modernize Arizona abortion laws” by “not prosecuting women who obtain abortions or doctors who perform them under the 1864 law.”

But Ms Bolick co-sponsored Arizona House Bill 2650 in 2021 which would have classified all abortions as a homicide and encouraged the attorney general or county attorneys to pursue criminal prosecutions against providers and the person seeking an abortion.

Arizona Representative David Schweikert said, “I do not support today’s ruling from the AZ Supreme Court. This issue should be decided by Arizonans, not legislated from the bench. I encourage the state legislature to address this issue immediately.”

However, Mr Schweikert has, for years, advocated to end abortion. In 2013, he wrote an opinion for in which he vowed to “never support a ‘medical procedure’ that is administered with the intent of purposefully terminating a life” and said it was “time we end” those procedures.

When the US Supreme Court overturned Roe, Mr Schweikert said he was “pleased” about the decision.

A protestor holds a sign reading ‘My Body My Choice’ at a Women’s March rally  outside the State Capitol on October 8, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Getty Images)
A protestor holds a sign reading ‘My Body My Choice’ at a Women’s March rally outside the State Capitol on October 8, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Getty Images)

For years, abortion has been weaponised by both Republicans and Democrats to promote candidates and encourage voters to support the respective parties through action or donations.

But since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe, candidates at all government levels have had to walk the abortion line carefully – especially as the November election approaches and state governments are put in charge of abortion laws.

Arizona Senate candidate Kari Lake previously referred to the Civil War-era law as a “great law” but suddenly softened her opinion on Tuesday.

She denounced the state supreme court’s decision saying abortion is, “a very personal issue that each individual state and her people should determine.”

Ms Lake is campaigning for state senator, two years after an unsuccessful bid for Arizona governor.