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Maricopa County Attorney says she won’t prosecute victims of rape, incest who get abortions
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Maricopa County Attorney says she won’t prosecute victims of rape, incest who get abortions

  • Health care providers who violate the 158-year-old law face between two and five years in prison.
    PixabayHealth care providers who violate the 158-year-old law face between two and five years in prison.

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said in a statement Tuesday that she does not plan to prosecute women who seek an abortion in cases of rape or incest and will seek the court’s guidance if they are asked to prosecute such a case. 

The statement from the county attorney comes after a near-total ban on abortion written in 1864, that had been blocked since 1973, was declared to be enforceable by a Pima County judge last week, criminalizing almost every abortion in Arizona.

“Friday’s Pima County Superior Court decision regarding abortion and the subsequent appeal have not resolved which law among conflicting statues now applies,” Mitchell, a Republican, said in a video statement posted to Twitter and Facebook. 

Mitchell said that her office has not received a single case submittal from law enforcement relating to abortion. 

“If further guidance has not been provided by the courts or the legislature by that time, my office will seek guidance from the court before taking any action,” Mitchell said. “This will be needed before a decision can be made on the case.” 

Late last week, Pima County Judge Kellie Johnson sided with Attorney General Mark Brnovich and said the territorial-era law, which had been reauthorized by Arizona’s legislature in 1901 and again in 1977, can no longer be blocked since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. 

The 158-year-old law outlaws all abortions except when the woman’s life is in danger, though it’s unclear exactly what that means. It contains no exceptions for pregnancies arising from rape or incest. 

Health care providers who violate the law face between two and five years in prison. The ban was first enacted in 1864, a year after Arizona became a territory and nearly 50 years before Arizona became a state in 1912. 

“I know this is a highly emotionally charged subject, and I want the community to know that I will not prosecute women for having abortions and no statue even suggests a woman will be prosecuted for her decision,” Mitchell said. “Likewise, I will not victimize victims of rape, incest or molestation.” 

Mitchell spent 12 years working in the sex-crimes unit at the Maricopa County prosecutors office where she worked high profile sex abuse cases. In her statement Mitchell said her office will be focused on prosecuting violent crime. 

Mitchell was appointed to the county attorney role in April after her predecessor, Alister Adel, resigned. She is seeking a full term as county attorney, and is the Republican nominee in November.

Her opponent, Democratic nominee Julie Gunnigle, found Mitchell’s response lacking. 

“Patients and advocates have been begging for clarity about this law, which *does not* have an immunity provision for patients who self-administer,” Gunnigle said on Twitter. “Survivors have been begging for clarity as to how to get a special ‘sexual assault permission slip’ from the County Attorney to have an abortion.”

This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.


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