Vice President Harris tells Tucson crowd that Trump is to blame for Az abortion ban

Vice President Kamala Harris laid the blame for the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision to uphold an 1864 abortion ban squarely on former president and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump during a visit to Tucson on Friday.

“Just this week here in Arizona, they have turned the clock back more than a century to take away a woman’s most fundamental right, the right to make decisions about her own body,” Harris said during a rally at El Rio Neighborhood Center. 

“What has happened here in Arizona is a new inflection point. It has demonstrated once and for all that overturning Roe was just the opening act—just the opening act of a larger strategy to take women’s rights and freedoms, part of a full-on attack state by state on reproductive freedom. And we all must understand who is to blame. Former President Donald Trump did this,” she said.

With new bans and regulations being enforced in more than 20 states around the county following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade precedent that established a right to abortion, reproductive rights were already emerging as a key issue nationwide in the 2024 elections. 

But the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling this week has put the issue front and center in this state. A chaotic effort to repeal the 1864 law at the Arizona Legislature collapsed Wednesday when GOP leaders adjourned rather than allow a vote, while backers of a voter initiative to enshrine abortion rights in the Arizona Constitution said this week their effort was more important than ever.

“Donald Trump picked three members of the Supreme Court because he intended for them overturn Roe and as he intended, they did,” Harris said.”And now, because of Donald Trump, more than 20 states in our nation have bans. Now, because of Donald Trump, one in three women of reproductive age in our country live in a state that has a Trump abortion ban.”

Harris warned that Trump, who has taken a variety of positions on abortion rights over the course of his political career, would sign a national ban on the medical procedure if he wins a second term in November.

“Trump wants us to believe he will not sign a national ban,” the Democratic vice president said. “Enough with the gaslighting. We all know if Donald Trump gets the chance he will sign a national abortion ban. … Congress tried to pass a national abortion ban in 2017. And then-President Trump endorsed it and promised to sign it if he got on his desk. Well, the great Maya Angelou once said, ‘When someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time.’”

Harris was joined Friday at El Rio Neighborhood Center by Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Ruben Gallego, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, state Sens. Priya Sundareshan and Eva Burch, Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes and other speakers.

Her comments were livestreamed by a nationwide organization for Democratic campaigns.

Gallego said that Arizona was now “ground zero” in the fight over reproductive rights and he would do “everything I can” to defeat his likely opponent, Republican Kari Lake, who voiced her enthusiastic support for the 1864 law during her gubernatorial campaign.

Lake backtracked after this week’s court decision, saying the 1864 statute was “out of line with where the people of this state are.”

Gallego reminded the crowd that two years ago, Lake “called this ban a great law. She cited it by statute. She celebrated when Roe v. Wade was overturned, which made abortion bans like this possible. They all did. Don’t let them lie about it.”

Sundareshan, who represents the Tucson-area Legislative District 18, said GOP state lawmakers would not even consider her proposed legislation to protect access to contraception, much less abortion.

“Donald Trump and Republicans here in Arizona are complicit in this ban and in a nationwide attempt to ban access to the range of reproductive health care, from contraceptives to abortion to IVF,” Sundareshan said. “They don’t plan to stop until our rights are gone. It’s not right that Arizonans need to brace ourselves every few years, in hopes that our fundamental rights won’t change.”

She noted the close margins in the balance of power at the Legislature, where Republicans hold a 31-29 advantage in the Arizona House of Representatives and  31-29 advantage in the Senate.

“By flipping just two seats, we stop this attacks on reproductive freedom,” Sundareshan said.

Romero said the court’s decision was “about control over women and control over our bodies. We know that criminalizing abortion will not stop people from having abortions. It will simply make them unsafe.”

Democratic congressional candidate Kirsten Engel, who narrowly lost her 2022 race to Republican Juan Ciscomani, did not speak at the event but told the Tucson Sentinel she felt “outage and astonishment” by the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision to reinstate the Civil War-era ban.

“We’ve got to fight harder than ever to overturn this,” Engel said. “We can’t let Republicans take us back to 1864 when women didn’t even have the right to vote.”

Ciscomani, who is seeking a second term in Southern Arizona’s competitive Congressional District 6, said earlier this week that he disagreed with the court’s decision, calling the ruling a “a disaster for women and doctors.”

“In Arizona, our 15-week law protected the rights of women and new life,” the GOP congressman said. “It respected women and the difficult decision of ending a pregnancy – one I will never personally experience and won’t pretend to understand. As my record shows, I’m a strong supporter of empowering women to make their own health care choices and I oppose a national abortion ban. The territorial law is archaic. We must do better for women and I call on our state policymakers to address this in a bipartisan manner.”

Engel said Ciscomani “is not going to fool anyone. He has been anti-abortion, cheering on the repeal of Roe v Wade, which is how we got into this situation in the first place by leaving it to states like Arizona where the GOP is in control and wants to bring us back to the Civil War era.”

Engel pointed to votes Ciscomani has taken to place nationwide restrictions on medication abortion and restrict the ability of pregnant members of the military to have abortions.

“He has a long record of being anti-abortion and he can’t reinvent his record,” Engel said. “The voters know better.”

While the Arizona Supreme Court stayed this week’s decision for 14 days, the case is being returned to the trial court in Pima County, where further legal action is likely to delay any enforcement for much longer.

Both Pima County Attorney Laura Conover and Attorney General Kris Mayes have said they would not prosecute anyone under the 1864 law. Last year, Gov. Katie Hobbs issued an executive order stripped county attorneys of their power to prosecute cases involving abortions, centralizing that authority in the Attorney General’s Office.

Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma, who is opposed to repealing the 1864 ban, told Phoenix radio show host J.T. Harris this week that the Legislature may place its own abortion measure on the ballot.

Such a referral to voters would likely be to establish the ability to obtain an abortion within the first 15 weeks of a pregnancy, but not provide the broader reproductive rights that would be enshrined if the initiative’s constitutional amendment is approved by voters.