The Arizona Abortion Ban Case Shows What ‘Let the States Decide’ Really Means

The Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling that reinstated a draconian 1864 near-total abortion ban reveals the disingenuous nature of the “leave-it-to-the-states” positioning of some Republicans.

In response to the state Supreme Court’s decision, Democrats spearheaded legislation to repeal that law, which was recently signed by Gov. Katie Hobbs (D). However, leaving it to the states doesn’t always have such a rosy ending—and, indeed, this is not the end of efforts in Arizona or elsewhere by special interests trying to impose their regressive worldview on us all through law. A closer look into the Arizona abortion case and court that led to the reprise of this antiquated anti-abortion law reveals that some of the same anti-abortion zealots who played a central role in overturning Roe are also playing a role in revoking Arizonians’ access to abortion healthcare.

War on Women Report: Anti-Abortion Activists Desperate to Keep Abortion Off 2024 Ballot; NAIA Bars Trans Women From Competing

U.S. patriarchal authoritarianism is on the rise, and democracy is on the decline. But day after day, we stay vigilant in our goals to dismantle patriarchy at every turn. The fight is far from over. We are watching, and we refuse to go back. This is the War on Women Report.

Since our last report: Missouri anti-abortion activists try to trick voters out of supporting a ballot measure to protect abortion rights; 70 percent of school shooters committed violence against women before or during their attacks; Connecticut may join Maine, Texas, California and New York in adopting coerced debt protections; Fox News spent only 12 minutes covering a ruling from the all-Republican Arizona Supreme Court reviving a 160-year-old state law that bans abortion; and more.

The Arizona Abortion Fight Is a Reminder That Progress Is Not Linear

April’s U.S. political news admittedly brought many horrors—from Alabama legislators advancing a bill to define sex based on “reproductive systems,” not gender identity; to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing an Idaho ban on gender-affirming care for minors to take effect; to the Arizona Supreme Court upholding an abortion ban from 1864, which opens the door to criminalizing health providers with up to five years of prison time if they provide abortion services. Tucson Mayor Regina Romero called the ruling “a huge step backwards.”

Legal changes in the present may appear to be reversing earlier advancements, as Romero said. But advocates of equity need a better grasp of history so they are realistic about the intermittent successes of movements for social change. The fight for full gender equality is a long game.

Arizona Finally Repeals its Total Abortion Ban: ‘The Eyes of the World Are Watching’

The Arizona Supreme Court revived an 1864 pre-statehood ban on abortion (although the law will not go into effect immediately).

To quote the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the way of thinking embedded in these zombie laws from the 19th century reflects “ancient notions about women’s place in the family and under the Constitution, ideas that have long since been discredited.” The Arizona Supreme Court does not expressly traffic in these deeply gendered stereotypes that are contemporaneous with the abortion ban it has resurrected from the dead—but they are silently lurking in the margins of the opinion.  

As Attorney General Mayes put it, the decision is “unconscionable and an affront to freedom… and will go down as a stain on our state.”

Why It’s So Important That an Arizona State Senator Is Speaking Out About Needing an Abortion

Abortion has always been a fact of life. People in all occupations and walks of life need and seek abortion care. Arizona state Senator Eva Burch’s decision to share her need for abortion care while holding elected office in a state whose legislature and courts are grappling with abortion laws emphasizes that the personal is political. It also creates a powerful contrast between the relentless attempts by the anti-abortion movement to impose their worldview on the entire country and the many ways that people across the nation are fighting back—by sharing their stories, helping others get care, voting for abortion rights, and finding ways to overcome enormous obstacles to get an abortion. 

Senator Burch is not alone. New data from the Guttmacher Institute shows an increase in abortions with more people accessing abortion care in 2023 than any other year in the last decade. 

Arizona Repeals Extreme Abortion Ban From 1864

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled to let a law banning almost all abortions in the state go into effect. The justices ordered the state to wait 14 days before beginning to enforce the ban, to give advocates time to ask a lower court to pause it again.

Voters may be able to weigh in on the issue this November: Last week, Arizona for Abortion Access, a coalition of abortion rights organizations, announced it had gathered enough signatures for a ballot measure that would ask voters to enshrine abortion rights in the state’s Constitution.

Keeping Score: Arizona Supreme Court Weighs 1864-Era Abortion Ban; Kate Cox Is Denied an Abortion; Women Call Out Toxic Workplaces

In every issue of Ms., we track research on our progress in the fight for equality, catalogue can’t-miss quotes from feminist voices and keep tabs on the feminist movement’s many milestones. We’re Keeping Score online, too—in this biweekly roundup.

This week: Texas Supreme Court blocks Kate Cox from receiving an abortion; judge prohibits Trump-era policy of separating families at the border; women call out toxic workplaces, from New Jersey police to banking regulator FDIC; President Biden appoints record number of women and people of color as federal judges; young Americans are excited to vote in 2024; guaranteed income programs may help maternal health outcomes; and more.

Arizona Ballot Measure in 2024 Elections Could Protect Abortion Rights by Amending State Constitution

On Aug. 8, a coalition of Arizona organizations announced the filing of the Arizona Abortion Access Act, which would place a proposed constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights on Arizona’s November 2024 general election ballot.

“Every Arizonan should have the freedom to make decisions about their bodies, their lives and their futures,” said Chris Love, senior advisor for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona. “We know the work for achieving reproductive freedom is an uphill battle, and this ballot initiative is the next critical step in our renewed drive to protect the health and freedom of our patients and our communities.”

Arizona ‘Medical Students for Life’ Chapter Threatens Patient Health: ‘This Contradicts What We Are Taught in Our Curriculum,’ Say Students

Despite student government’s vote, anti-abortion group Medical Students for Life is now fully operational on Midwestern University Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine’s campus. 

What’s happening at Midwestern University illustrates the anti-abortion movement’s larger strategy: disseminate misinformation to confuse, deter and scare pregnant people out of getting abortions.