With the U.S. Supreme Court refusing to block a Texas law banning abortions at six weeks when fetal heartbeats begin, Arizona’s Republican-dominated legislature is expected to enact a similar law. Until now, federal courts had struck down several laws regulating abortion enacted in Arizona. The unusual nature of the Texas law — allowing citizens to sue in order to enforce it instead of the state — is why a 5-4 majority on SCOTUS allowed the significant intrusion into Roe v. Wade.
Cathi Herrod, president of the conservative Center for Arizona Policy and a key architect of pro-life bills in the Arizona Legislature, said Arizona should copy the successful legislation in order to avoid being struck down. “The Texas heartbeat law is a road map to what other states can do,” she told Capitol Media Services. “The Texas heartbeat law is worthy of serious consideration by the Arizona Legislature.”
The Texas law allows citizens to file lawsuits against anyone — not just doctors — who help a woman obtain an abortion after six weeks, and offers $10,000 rewards. Pro-choice advocates say at least 85 percent of abortions occur after six weeks, and the fact many women don’t even know they are pregnant yet at six weeks, the law is close to a near ban on the procedure. It is considered the biggest gutting to date of the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. Jana Pinson, executive director of Pregnancy Center of the Coastal Bend, which has four clinics in the Corpus Christi area, told The New York Times, “I didn’t think it would happen in my lifetime.”
A fetal heartbeat bill was introduced in the Arizona Legislature this past year as an amendment to HB 2140, but failed due to the fact courts have struck those laws down. Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) said she did not allow the bill to come to the floor for debate since it didn’t get enough support and wasn’t properly legally vetted. Similarly, Herrod reasoned at the time, “I’m not opposed to heartbeat legislation. But the courts have declined to uphold heartbeat laws as constitutional.”
Herrod compares the Texas law to saving a child in a hot car. “If you walk by a car that’s locked and you see a child that’s inside that car, and it’s in our heat and the child is clearly not going to survive, you’re going to bust open the window and save that child,” Herrod said. “That’s analogous to what Texas is trying to do, that the private citizen is able to protect that child from the abortionist’s hand.”
Arizona recently passed a law, SB 1457, that makes it a crime to abort a child due to “genetic abnormalities” like Down syndrome. It is somewhat similar to the Texas law in that it allows the husband of a woman who violates this law to sue on behalf of the unborn child. It goes into effect September 29, although there is a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.
According to the Family Research Council, Arizona has some of the best pro-life laws in the country, and is ranked No. 5 among the states by Christian Headlines.
Former local news anchor Kari Lake, who is running for governor to replace term-limited Doug Ducey, and well ahead of her Republican opponents in a recent poll, tweeted that she would sign a similar bill here “in a heartbeat.”
Well done, Texas. Arizona is next. pic.twitter.com/n60sd5lbFh
— Kari Lake for AZ Governor (@KariLake) September 3, 2021
Former President Donald Trump said he would only appoint pro-life Supreme Court Justices, and his appointees Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Comey Barrett are widely perceived as sharing those views. Chief Justice John Roberts did not vote with them on the Texas decision, declaring in a dissent that the state cannot shake its responsibility from enforcing laws.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a challenge to a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks in the coming term. It has been blocked from going into effect by lower courts.
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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at the Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].