Local opinion: Local legislators who support the 1864 abortion ban have led to fear and confusion

This article was originally published by the Arizona Daily Star.

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writers:

As Southern Arizona OB/GYNs committed to women’s health issues, including reproductive care, we have witnessed first-hand the devastating consequences of the continued uncertainty about abortion access in our state, which has created fear, confusion and even danger for the people we care for.

Attorney General Mayes recently delayed the implementation of the 1864 territorial abortion ban by another 90 days, which is a much-needed win for protecting the reproductive rights of Arizonans. But the confusion in the state continues.

Let’s take a step back to see how we got here.

In 2022, every Republican state legislator voted for a 15-week abortion ban. They intentionally included language that said it was not intended to overrule the 1864 near-total abortion ban that was on the books before Roe v. Wade.

After Roe v Wade was overturned in June of 2022, Republican leaders pushed for implementation of the 1864 ban, creating fear and confusion among patients and physicians. Some providers closed down completely, and others mistakenly referred patients for care out-of-state due to the uncertainty. Patients already coping with a devastating diagnosis such as miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy had to travel out of state, often driving long distances to receive care that was dangerous to delay and should have been provided here in Arizona by their trusted medical provider. Women were put into urgent, high-risk situations and providers were left in a precarious position.

On April 9th of this year, Republican legislators got their way when the Arizona Supreme Court ruled to implement the draconian 1864 law that bans all abortions with no exceptions for rape and incest and criminalizes performance of the procedure with mandatory jail time.

Democratic state representatives immediately got to work to repeal the 1864 ban. They forced votes in the State Senate and House. Every single Republican voted against repeal, until eventually a few in contested races changed their votes. The repeal was passed and then signed by Governor Hobbs.

But that is not the end of the story. The 1864 ban might still be implemented for a period of time this year — we just don’t know yet.

And just as important, the back and forth about the legal status of abortion access has already affected the sense of personal health and safety of so many of our family, friends and patients. Even if the ban is not implemented, its consequences have already been far-reaching.

No matter how we each individually feel about the deeply personal decision to terminate a pregnancy, the strong majority of Arizonans believe that, like every decision we make about our health, it is a decision that should be made with loved ones and medical professionals, free from government interference.

Most of our Tucson-area representatives have been leaders in fighting to defend these fundamental rights. Most, but unfortunately, not all.

Current Legislative District 17 state legislators Sen. Justine Wadsack, Rep. Rachel Jones, and Rep. Cory McGarr celebrated the extreme 1864 ban. They believe that the government can and should dictate the reproductive and health choices of individuals and families.

Jones and McGarr supported a statement that equated the decision to get an abortion (regardless of the reason) to “murdering children” and “evil.” They seem to have no compassion for people facing this incredibly difficult decision, and no understanding of the far-reaching and critical health consequences of this policy.

We deserve better leaders than people who demonize Arizonans for their personal health care decisions and are willing to use the government to impose their ideology on everyone.

It is critical that we end the chilling effects of the uncertain legal status of access to abortion by restoring and protecting reproductive freedom once and for all.

As OB/GYNs with firsthand experience, we are calling for our fellow Arizonans to join us in both supporting the Arizona Abortion Access ballot initiative and electing new leaders to the state legislature who will support reproductive rights.

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