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Dems, doctors react to Brnovich saying Arizona will enforce Civil War-era abortion ban

The ban dates back to the 1860s, before Arizona was a state and women could vote

Democratic leaders and candidates along with doctors had strong words for Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who said Wednesday that abortions are now outlawed in Arizona because a law that was first drafted during the Civil War is still on the books.

“This law in Arizona will harm women,” Dr. Viktoria Krajnc, a family medicine practitioner, told reporters Thursday afternoon in front of Brnovich’s office. The law could cause doctors to hesitate from doing life saving procedures, such as on women with ectopic pregnancies, out of fear of violating the law.

The law states that a “person who provides, supplies or administers” any “medicine, drugs or substance, or uses or employs any instrument or other means whatever, with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage of such woman, unless it is necessary to save her life, shall be punished by (imprisonment) in the state prison for not less than two years nor more than five years.”

The law has no exception for abortion in cases of rape or incest; interim Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell has said she is unlikely to prosecute cases of survivors of rape and incest, though it is unclear how she will evaluate such cases. The law effectively bans abortion in the state of Arizona except for in cases where the woman’s life is in danger. 

Some have read the law as a possible way to ban Plan B and inuterine devices due to its plain language, but Jodi Liggett, founder of the Arizona Center for Women’s Advancement, told the Arizona Mirror that “there is no legal authority for such an assertion and that medical experts have explained over and over that the mechanism by which these methods work is to prevent conception in the first place.”

The state’s law banning abortions was created by the first territorial Arizona legislature in 1864.

At a press conference in front of the AG’s Office, Arizona State Senate Democratic leader Rebecca Rios called anti-abortion Republicans an “existential threat to Arizona,” adding that all the Republican gubernatorial candidates at Wednesday’s debate agreed with the law — and some even suggested withholding money from cities that disregard the law. 

“This action by Mark Brnovich takes us crashing back to the time when this oppressive law was written,” Democratic attorney general candidate Kris Mayes said, motioning to the AG’s office behind her. “The government does not belong in these most private of decisions.” 

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Mayes said that she would not prosecute any woman who seeks an abortion and would also not extradite any woman who crosses state lines for an abortion if elected attorney general. Mayes also addressed concerns that many women have been having around period tracking apps, which privacy advocates have speculated could be used to prosecute women for having an abortion. 

Mayes said she would “fight or quash” any subpoena that would seek personal information from an internet service provider or application that would be given to either the government or a private party. 

“They are waging a war, make no mistake about it,” Mayes said. 

The Mirror also was given a statement by Morgan Tucker, a 39-year-old mom who was forced to travel out of state for an abortion due to Arizona’s abortion restrictions that existed before the court struck down Roe v. Wade protections. 

“As an Arizonan who sought medically necessary abortion care in my home state in the height of a global pandemic and was forced to travel hundreds of miles, pregnant and with my immune-compromised husband, I know first-hand how cruel and horrifying this move by our Attorney General is,” Tucker said. 

Her statement continued: “After choosing to have an abortion and also choosing to protect the health of my still-growing daughter, being forced to carry a dead fetus for four months and deliver it vaginally was emotionally, mentally, and physically traumatic. The experience caused me to disconnect from my pregnancy experience entirely because there was death in my body and I had no choice but to keep it there. I was constantly reminded of this forced pregnancy and it was a harrowing concept to live with each day. After the safe and healthy delivery of our daughter and her placenta, there was whispering among the medical staff and I was told I was going to need to give another big push. I remember looking away and just getting through it. It was grim. My forced pregnancy was necessary to save my daughter’s life, but it does not mean it wasn’t agonizing. I know first-hand the experience of being forced to carry a pregnancy to term and it is an experience no other parent should have to endure. We cannot allow Arizona and other states to pass laws criminalizing abortion and forcing parents to carry pregnancies against their will. Simply put, it is inhumane.”

This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.


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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy/Arizona Mirror

Democratic attorney general candidate Kris Mayes speaks at a press conference in front of the Attorney General’s Office on June 30, 2022, denouncing AG Mark Brnovich’s announcement that a state law dating back to territorial days that makes abortion a felony will be enforced.

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