Arizona ruling on abortion roils Senate race

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The Arizona Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a Civil War-era ban that blocks nearly all abortions in the state is roiling the Senate race to replace Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.).

The Tuesday ruling upholding an 1864 abortion law that bars patients from receiving an abortion in nearly all cases also jails physicians who illegally perform the procedure. The ban supersedes the state’s 15-week abortion limit.

While Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Kari Lake (R) both issued statements opposing the decision, the issue is threatening to jeopardize the GOP’s chances of winning the Senate seat in November.

“It’s my view that Gallego had a slight edge prior to this ruling,” explained Kirk Adams, a former state House Speaker and chief of staff to former Gov. Doug Ducey (R).

“After this ruling, I think it’s his race to lose.”

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes (D) issued a statement following the high court’s ruling, saying that “as long as I am Attorney General, no woman or doctor will be prosecuted under this draconian law in this state.”

The ruling, which doesn’t go into effect immediately, drew a pushback from Arizona’s Democrats and Republicans, alike, particularly those in swing races.

“What happened today — the fact that women in Arizona now have less rights than they ever had, have no control over their bodies — it’s just inhumane,” Gallego said in video posted on social platform X.

“But we’re not done. The state Supreme Court has had their say. We will have our say, and we will fight,” he said, vowing “to fight all way until November.”

In a statement issued in the wake of the state Supreme Court hearing, Gallego also criticized his opponent, alleging “extremist politicians like Kari Lake are forcing themselves into doctors’ offices and ripping away the right for women to make their own healthcare decisions.”

Lake also issued a statement against the Arizona Supreme Court ruling and said she agreed with former President Trump that the issue should be left to the states to decide.

“I oppose today’s ruling, and I am calling on Katie Hobbs and the State Legislature to come up with an immediate common sense solution that Arizonans can support. Ultimately, Arizona voters will make the decision on the ballot come November,” Lake said.

In her statement, she noted that she opposed federal funding for abortions and federal bans on the procedure while also outlining what she supported, including baby bonuses, protecting in vitro fertilization (IVF), making adoption more accessible and paid family leave.

Yet the issue has become a political quagmire for Lake — and other vulnerable Arizona Republicans up for reelection.

Gallego and fellow Democrats quickly spotlighted Lake’s previous comments on the issue, including her past praise for the 1864 law.

During a podcast interview in wake of the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Lake mentioned that she was “incredibly thrilled that we are going to have a great law that’s already on the books.”

“I believe it’s ARS 13-3603,” she said, referring to the state law. “So it will prohibit abortion in Arizona except to save the life of a mother. And I think we are going to be setting the — paving the way and setting course for other states to follow.”

She’s previously referred to abortion as the “ultimate sin” and expressed support for Texas’s 2021 six-week ban.

Lake has sought to argue this cycle that she’s against a federal ban on abortion and that the issue should be left to the states.

“I want to make sure that women, when they find themselves pregnant, aren’t afraid and think that’s the only choice they have. Regardless of how many weeks is the law, regardless of all of that, I want to make sure that women have — know there are choices out there,” she told The Hill in an interview last year.

Republican strategist Lorna Romero Ferguson suggested Lake “did herself a favor yesterday of trying to neutralize” attacks on abortion by issuing her statement, which called on lawmakers and the governor to act.

But Romero Ferguson noted that the issue was still a problem for Republicans, as all eyes turn to the state Legislature to see what actions they might take now.

“This is a good issue for Democrats, right?” Romero Ferguson said. “And they were prepared yesterday for this ruling to come out and to be able to paint Republicans as extremists by having their previous statements and having clips of their speeches and statements in the past, of them cheering on Roe v. Wade being overturned.”

“This is not helpful to Republicans. Period,” she added.

Other Republicans in the state also recognize its seismic electoral effect.

“In terms of impacting the Senate race, I think it’s going to impact every race, of course. That’s an issue that is important to the people in Arizona,” said Rep. Juan Ciscomani (R-Ariz.) when asked if he thought it was going impact the Senate race.

Complicating the issue of abortion for Republicans, Arizona GOP state lawmakers blocked an effort Wednesday to proceed on legislation that would repeal the 1864 law — raising questions around what steps the state Legislature might take to address the court ruling ahead of November.

The issue of abortion access is set to be even more salient as abortion-rights advocates look to put a measure on the ballot that would enshrine abortion protections into the state constitution.

Arizona is among a handful of key swing states that will determine the presidency and which party controls the Senate this fall. Biden won Arizona in 2020 against Trump by just more than one-quarter of a percentage point.

The state Supreme Court’s ruling hasn’t stopped members of the GOP from continuing to rally around Lake.

Asked if he believed it could negatively impact Lake, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 Senate Republican, noted Monday that he hadn’t read the decision at the time and touted Lake’s credentials on another issue.

“She’s the right candidate for Arizona ‘cause she’s right on the border issue” he said, while arguing that Gallego was for “open borders.”

At the same, it raises the question for Republicans over how to navigate the issue in the Grand Canyon State. In Lake’s case, Democratic strategist Stacy Pearson suggested the former local news anchor should encourage voters to get the abortion measure on the ballot to let Arizonans weigh in on the issue.

“Ultimately, if she wants us to decide on her race, she should also trust voters to decide on abortion,” Pearson said.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.