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Legislative Officials and Their Opposition Towards Reproductive Rights

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Armand Jackson          

Getting an abortion in Arizona remains in legal limbo as court cases proceed between two conflicting anti-abortion laws. There is the state’s territorial 1864 abortion law which was re-codified in 1901 that makes abortion illegal unless it’s needed to save the individual’s life. And there is SB 1164 that Governor Doug Duceysigned into law back in March of this year which bans all abortions after 15 weeks, with the only exceptions of a medical emergency threatening the life of the mother, or a serious risk of substantial impairment of a bodily function, and punishes physicians who perform abortions outside of these criteria.            

As Republican state leaders and anti-abortion groups argue in favor of both of these laws, abortion clinics across Arizona have ceased operations due to legal confusion and fear of repercussions. At the same time, abortion rights advocacy groups are attempting to keep abortion legal for those in Arizona who need it. Arizona’s Governor, Attorney General, and Republican-controlled State Legislature all hold anti-abortion positions but constituents will get to weigh in on this at the upcoming midterm elections. So who are the elected officials who oppose abortion access in Arizona? 

Arizona Representative Justin Wilmeth is a member of the Arizona House of Representatives for District 15 and is currently running as a candidate for District 2. He has been endorsed by the Arizona MAGA organization and presents himself as “100 percent pro life.” In both the 2020 and 2022 Center For Arizona Policy voter guides, Wilmeth supported prohibiting abortion except to prevent the death of the mother, and opposed providing state funding or referrals to health care entities that perform or refer for abortion. In the 2022 Center for Arizona Policy voter guide, he stated: “To be clear, I’m morally not comfortable with abortion for any reason.” 

Wilmeth’s social media presence, particularly on Twitter, also contains anti-abortion language. He has retweeted the messaging of evangelical extremist leaders calling abortion murder, promoted the messaging of other state as well as media figures who have anti-abortion sentiments, and attended anti-abortion rallies such as the Arizona for Life March & Rally back in 2020 that was organized by the Arizona Life Coalition. Wilmeth recently won his GOP primary and will face off this November with his Democratic opponent, Judy Schwiebert.

Nancy Barto, a member of the Arizona State Senate for District 15, is currently running for re-election to represent District 4 and was victorious on primary night. Throughout her 15 year long legislative career Barto has advocated and sponsored over a dozen anti-abortion bills that have limited reproductive freedoms in Arizona. These bills include: affirming the 1864 abortion law that would ban all abortion in Arizona except to save the life of the mother; banning abortions at 15 weeks even in cases of rape and incest; increasing restrictions on accessing abortion pills; allowing inspections of abortion clinics without a warrant; and banning the use of telemedicine to provide abortion services to mention a few. She has even supported a bill that raises privacy concerns as it forces individuals to disclose personal information about their abortion to the state. 

Robert Scantlebury, a Trump endorsed candidate running for the Arizona State Senate  for District 9 and won his primary in August, identified himself as pro-life on his campaign site: “Every human life deserves to be protected, especially the most vulnerable among us, the unborn.” He is among those who supported prohibiting abortions except when it is necessary to prevent the death of the mother while opposing the provision of state funding or referrals to health care entities that perform or refer for abortion. 

Then there is Liz Harris, a Republican candidate with a history of denying the 2020 election results. She is running for the Arizona House of Representatives for District 13 and holds anti-abortion positions. She supports banning abortion, except when it is necessary to prevent the death of the mother, and opposes providing state funding or referrals to health care entities that perform or refer for abortion. Harris recently shared anti-abortion posts on her personal Instagram page. Harris won her primary in August and will be on the ballot in the state’s general election.

Reproductive right advocates note that if these candidates are elected this fall, it will create a dangerous new reality for pregnant individuals in Arizona: more victims of sexual assault and incest will be forced to carry a pregnancy to term; many others will have to carry unviable pregnancies to term; where unsafe abortions will become commonplace again; and even if one gets a legal abortion, they will have to report their personal medical procedures to the state.

As court cases over the legality of abortion continue the stakes have been raised for Arizona’s midterm elections, what remains to be seen is what Arizona voters will do about it.