By Jose Gonzalez
Gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs and attorney general candidate Kris Mayes, both Democrats, spoke out Saturday against a Pima County Superior Court judge’s ruling reinforcing a pre-statehood law banning abortion in most cases.
Hobbs and Mayes took to a lectern at a morning press conference outside Republican Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office off North Central Avenue and East Palm Lane in Phoenix. The state’s top lawyer asked the court to rule on the injunction following the United States Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in late June, which overturned legalized abortion.
The law is “extreme” and a “territorial-era ban” that is “cruel and life-threatening,” Hobbs said, adding it makes no exceptions for rape or incest. “Additionally, this law means that abortion providers can be thrown into jail for providing reproductive care.”
Hobbs, who is currently serving as Arizona’s secretary of state, said if elected she would move to pull the law.
“On day one, I will call a special session of the state Legislature to overturn this draconian law,” Hobbs said.
Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson’s ruling on the law, which dates to 1864 and led to the imprisonment of doctors and amateur abortionists, clarifies how it can be enforced. The only exception in the law is afforded to save the life of a pregnant individual. The ban was adopted into law in 1901.
Mayes said she would withdraw Brnovich’s opinion favoring the law, calling it unconstitutional. She argued the state Constitution had an expressed right to privacy protecting abortion rights.
“This outrageous law represents a clear violation of the rights of women in our state. Even worse, it will put the health of women at risk in a way we have not seen in our lifetime. Women and girls will die because of it,” she said, later adding, “It’s unacceptable that Arizona women are now being forced back in time to 1901 and that the young women of this state now have fewer rights than I and other women have had our entire lives.”
Mayes also said the law will hinder Arizona’s economic growth, suggesting companies and workers will not relocate to the state.
Both candidates urged those concerned with the impact from the law’s reinstatement to vote in the Nov. 8 election.
“People in their doctors’ offices today don’t know what’s allowed and the care they can get, and this is harming people’s access to care today. So, voting in November is incredibly important so that we can move forward to restore rights,” Hobbs said.
Mayes expressed certainty that a ballot initiative on the issue would face voters come 2024.
The initiative would give voters “an opportunity to ensconce in the Arizona Constitution a permanent right to abortion and the right to reproductive care,” Mayes said.
The two candidates were joined by Dr. Baharak Tabarsi, a Phoenix-based family physician who identified herself as a registered independent. Tabarsi said fellow medical professionals are troubled by Friday’s abortion ruling.
“I belong to several social media groups with plenty of physicians local in Arizona and there’s confusion, there’s chaos. And I will use the word ‘moral injury,’ towards clinicians having our hands tied behind our backs,” the physician said.
Tabarsi, who said she fled Iran because of persecution, drew parallels between women’s rights there and Arizona’s new abortion ban.
“I know firsthand the consequences of what can happen when women are controlled and oppressed,” she said. “I cannot imagine living in a state where my body is now once again controlled by my government.”