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Herrod's anti-abortion claims parroted by Phx media

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Herrod's anti-abortion claims parroted by Phx media

  • Cathi Herrod speaking in 2015.
    Gage Skidmore/FlickrCathi Herrod speaking in 2015.

Recently ABC15 News in Phoenix ran a piece about Rep. Raquel Terán (D-LD30) visiting El Salvador with a group of legislators from around the country. Abortion is completely banned, and criminalized, in the Central American country:

Teran visited hospitals and jails and met with pregnant girls, some as young as 10 years old. She visited with women in jail, including one woman who is sentenced to a 30-year prison term after being convicted of having an abortion.

She claims she had an obstetric emergency. "If Roe v. Wade is gone, Arizona in a blink of an eye could be El Salvador," Teran says.

Arizona's law bans abortion, except when the life of the mother is at risk. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. The law also places restrictions on birth control.

Because of Roe v. Wade, Arizona's law is not being enforced. But Teran sees a day when that is possible if nothing is done to change it, "When we see these abortion restrictions come to our state legislatures we talk about the unintended consequences."

The Arizona law the report refers to is A.R.S. 13-3604, a statute that predates Roe v Wade which states:

A woman who solicits from any person any medicine, drug or substance whatever, and takes it, or who submits to an operation, or to the use of any means whatever, with intent thereby to procure a miscarriage, unless it is necessary to preserve her life, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than one nor more than five years.

If (or when) Roe is overturned, the law goes into effect. Legal experts publicly disagree that it will be enforceable but in January, 1973, shortly before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in the Roe decision that same year, the Arizona Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the state's statutes banning abortion in the Nelson v Planned Parenthood decision. That decision was amended by the same court only after Roe declared all state abortion bans unconstitutional.

I applaud both Terán and ABC15 for bringing attention to the criminalization of abortion and pregnancy outcomes and to the legal situation that will exist when Roe is gone. Unfortunately, many in the Phoenix press have a bad tendency of "both siding" abortion coverage so Center for Arizona President Cathi Herrod was asked to weigh in:

"El Salvador is not America, El Salvador is not Arizona." Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod says Representative Teran is wrong to say women could go to jail for abortion.

"None of the pro-life laws, no pro-life advocate I am aware of is advocating punishing women having an abortion," Herrod says.

According to the Guttmacher Institute the number of abortions in Arizona have declined by 8% between 2014-2017. Pro-life inspired laws and a decrease in access to abortion procedures are playing a role in the decline.

"Abortion is not healthcare," Herrod says. She says the El Salvador trip was designed to scare Americans.

For those who are not familiar with her: Cathi Herrod and her socially conservative organization CAP are one of the most powerful lobbying forces at the Arizona Capitol. CAP opposes abortion with a frothing vengeance, as well as sex-ed, and birth control access. Its website proudly boasts the group's many legislative successes in limiting reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, and passing other agenda items of culturally conservative Christians.

Herrod's main pressure point over the past two decades has been mobilizing her following of religious activists to threaten Republican lawmakers with primary challenges if they do not comply with CAP's demands. Of course, most in the GOP caucus agree with her in the first place and willingly vote her way much of the time.

Herrod's legislative influence has (thankfully) waned in recent years, due to public debacles such as threatened boycotts of the state over SB1062, a bill that would have allowed discrimination based on religious grounds, Herrod's intervention into an anti-bullying bill, and the election of more Democrats to the State Legislature. Yet one area where Herrod still enjoys outsized influence is with the Phoenix press, particularly on the subject of abortion.

And the way she was quoted in the ABC15 story — verbatim, unchallenged, with no rebuttal or further context provided after — is maddeningly typical.

It is not adequate to argue putting her claim against the factual information provided about the Arizona law allows the viewer/reader to decide the truth. That's not how truth works.

The local press regularly lets Herrod put flatly false statements about abortion into the public discourse and this serves only to confuse rather than enlighten the public.Phoenix press: hear me when I tell you Cathi Herrod is not Abortion Google. If you insist on interviewing her about, say, whether or not abortion and pregnancy outcomes will be prosecuted, take the ten seconds of actual googling necessary to debunk her ludicrous claims. A search of "women prosecuted for abortion" yields a motherlode of hits of both "pro-life" laws targeting women for prosecution and "pro-life" people cheerfully admitting it will happen:

"Women need to be made aware," says Douglas County District Attorney Ryan Leonard. "The only way to be 100% sure you're not prosecuted under it is not to have an abortion."

Per Vox, punishing abortion with the death penalty is favorable to a disturbing set of conservative leaders and pundits, which tends to belie Herrod's "no one is advocating punishing women for abortion" claim. Our own president, prior to the 2016 election, told NBC's Chris Matthews he favored "some form of punishment" for abortion before quickly walking it back after public outcry. As president, he has appointed two anti-abortion Supreme Court justices and stacked the federal courts with judges hostile to abortion rights and possibly amenable to criminal penalties for people who get abortions.

Of course, punishment for abortion and negative pregnancy outcomes is really no longer in the theoretical realm, due to all the women actually being prosecuted currently under abortion bans and so-called "fetal protection" laws passed in Red states across the country, which include: a woman in Indiana, a woman in Tennessee, a woman in Idaho.

Herrod claims she's not aware of anyone with these punitive views and I am certainly not privy to her innermost motivations. Maybe she personally doesn't want to punish women but other people in her movement certainly, emphatically, do. Coverage of abortion policy in a time when Roe v Wade is very much on the chopping block needs to reflect it.

Donna Gratehouse blogs at

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