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Arizona Supreme Court Ruling Sparks Abortion Ban Debate

The recent decision by the Arizona Supreme Court has thrust the abortion issue into the spotlight in a state that holds significance in determining the outcome of the upcoming US presidential election.

The court’s ruling cleared the way for a nearly total ban on abortion, initially enacted in 1864 when Arizona was still a US territory, to take effect in the coming weeks unless further legal action is taken. This law had remained inactive for almost fifty years following the landmark 1973 US Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which affirmed a woman’s right to choose abortion.

However, the landscape shifted two years ago when the US Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade precedent, revitalizing old abortion bans like the one in Arizona, which achieved statehood in 1912.

The Arizona court’s decision drew swift condemnation from the Biden administration, local Democrats, and pro-choice activists.

“This ruling is a result of the extreme agenda of Republican elected officials who are committed to stripping away women’s freedom,” stated President Biden in a White House statement.

While anti-abortion groups celebrated the decision, many Republicans have distanced themselves from the state court action, reflecting public opinion polls that show a majority of Americans, including Arizonans, support abortion rights and oppose strict bans on the procedure.

The Republican Party historically opposed abortion before Roe v. Wade was overturned, but it is now grappling with the consequences of that decision. Kari Lake, the presumptive Republican nominee for an open Arizona Senate seat, illustrated the challenges and contradictions of the abortion issue for conservative candidates.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the former television news presenter condemned the court ruling, acknowledging that the 1864 law she previously supported is “out of step with Arizonans”. She emphasized that Arizona voters would have the opportunity to decide the abortion issue in the upcoming ballot referendum, although she personally opposes its passage.

She called on Governor Katie Hobbs, the Democrat who defeated her in 2022, to collaborate with the Republican-controlled legislature to find a “common-sense” solution, although she did not specify what that would entail.

On Monday, former President Donald Trump released a brief video outlining his evolving position, which included deferring the ultimate decision on legality to individual states. This message was echoed by Ms. Lake.

“I wholeheartedly agree with President Trump,” she stated. “This is a deeply personal issue that should be decided by each individual state and its people.”

By Wednesday, Mr. Trump himself had commented on the Arizona ruling, stating that it had gone “too far”.

While the Arizona Supreme Court left the door open to further legal challenges, if the 1864 ban goes into effect, it could serve as a clear example for voters of what it means for individual states to determine abortion policy.

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