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Kari Lake
Republican Kari Lake said she opposed the ruling but called the ban a “great law” in 2022, highlighting how much of a political flash point abortion has become for the GOP. Alex Brandon/AP

Arizona Republicans Are Racing to Disavow the State’s New Anti-Abortion Ruling

“I think voters aren’t going to be happy,” Sen. Mark Kelly told NOTUS.

Multiple Arizona Republicans on Tuesday rushed to oppose a ruling from the state’s Supreme Court allowing a 160-year-old law banning nearly all abortions to go into effect — highlighting how much of a political flash point abortion has become for the GOP in 2024.

“I am the only woman and mother in this race. I understand the fear, anxiety and joy of pregnancy and motherhood,” said Senate GOP hopeful Kari Lake. “I oppose today’s ruling, and I am calling on [Gov.] Katie Hobbs and the State Legislature to come up with an immediate common sense solution that Arizonans can support.” (Lake called the ban a “great law” in 2022 when she was running for governor.)

Similarly, Rep. Juan Ciscomani, who is running for reelection in the fall, called the ruling “a disaster for women and providers.” He said the pre-Roe ban is “archaic” and, like Lake, called on state lawmakers “to immediately address this in a bipartisan manner.”

Rep. David Schweikert, whose district is being targeted by Democrats, also opposed the ruling, saying that “this issue should be decided by Arizonans, not legislated from the bench.”

The Arizona Supreme Court ruling comes a day after Donald Trump said that abortion should be left to the states and encouraged Republicans to take his position. Major anti-abortion organizations condemned Trump’s stance, but his Republican allies in Congress have been slowly adopting it.

Sen. Steve Daines, the chair of Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, told NOTUS that the ruling was “an Arizona issue.” Similarly, Sen. John Thune, who is running to replace Mitch McConnell as Senate GOP leader, told reporters that the issue was up to voters in the state.

“It sounds to me like the voters are going to be heard on that. I haven’t looked at the decision yet, but my understanding is that there’s something going to be on the ballot,” Thune said. “I think that a lot of states are going to be handling this issue on their ballots.”

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, a Democrat, condemned the ruling on Tuesday, adding that she does not plan to enforce the ban: “As long as I am Attorney General, no woman or doctor will be prosecuted under this draconian law in this state.”

Since the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, every ballot measure supportive of abortion rights has succeeded, and the issue itself has been a political winner for Democrats. Abortion rights advocates are in the process of collecting signatures to add a constitutional amendment to the November ballot in Arizona. Just last week, the groups behind the effort said they surpassed the signature threshold in the key swing state.

Sen. Mark Kelly, who is running for reelection against Lake, told NOTUS on Tuesday shortly after the Arizona Supreme Court ruling was released that he was “surprised” about the decision.

“It makes us stand out as a state in, I think, the worst of ways,” Kelly said. “I think voters aren’t going to be happy, and there’s going to likely be a ballot initiative on the ballot in November, and I imagine it’s going to drive people to turn out and over, as it should.”

During a caucus meeting on Tuesday, Kelly spoke to his Democratic Senate colleagues about the dangers of the pre-Roe ban taking effect in the state, Sen. Tim Kaine told NOTUS.

“Mark Kelly stood up in the caucus meeting and pointed out how dramatic a ruling it is and that it’s already … kind of an earthquake seismic event in Arizona. But, he said, the only saving grace is that there is a petition drive to get a constitutional referendum on the ballot in November,” Kaine said. “If it is [added to the ballot], that will be very helpful to the president, that will be very helpful to the Senate race.”

Political strategists from across the political spectrum told NOTUS that arguing that abortion should be up to individual states is not a smart move.

Longtime GOP strategist Liz Mair said that while Trump is trying to distance himself from abortion by relegating it to the states, he has opened himself up to questions about how he plans to individually vote in Florida, where he is registered to vote as a Republican and where a six-week abortion ban signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis will soon take effect.

“The fact of the matter is no matter what he says, his record is abundantly clear,” said Ian Russell, a Democratic strategist and former deputy executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “It’s, again, just proof that [Republicans] … have not figured out how to talk about [abortion].”

Oriana González is a reporter at NOTUS.