Arizona Democrats warn 'girls will die' after judge upholds near-total abortion ban

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(PHOENIX) — Arizona Democrats gathered outside the Republican attorney general’s office on Saturday to hit their Republican opponents on abortion and warn that women and girls will die in the state after a judge upheld a 121-year-old law on reinstating a near-total ban on the procedure.

“This law is about controlling women by attempting to control our bodies and our lives,” said Democratic candidate for attorney general Kris Mayes. “Women and girls will die because of it…and it’s a glaring black eye for the state of Arizona nationally.”

Mayes said the law violates privacy rights of women in the state and that she would not enforce any abortion bans if elected attorney general.

“Under this ban, it’s Arizona women and families who will suffer the most,” said Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Democratic nominee for governor. “And as a mother, I’m furious that my 20-year-old daughter will have fewer rights than I did 50 years ago. The overwhelming majority of Arizonans support access to safe and legal abortion. This decision is a direct affront to what we the people, the voters, Arizonans, want.”

Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson on Friday handed down a highly-anticipated decision in favor of a 1901 law prohibiting all abortions other than those necessary to save the life of the mother. The statute, which has language dating back to 1864, also mandates two to five years in prison for anyone who provides an abortion.

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Hobbs’ and Mayes’ Republican opponents — Kari Lake and Abe Hamadeh, as well as Senate candidate Blake Masters — have all said they support the territorial-era abortion ban, but “are currently hiding under a rock somewhere,” said Mayes, noting they haven’t publicly weighed in since the ruling.

“Their silence speaks volumes,” Mayes said. “That’s for a reason. They know how absolutely unpopular this 1901 law is. They know how indefensible is it, and they know that when Nov. 8 comes, the people of Arizona are going to resoundingly reject this extreme abortion ban, this attack on the people of Arizona, by voting them down.”

ABC News has reached out to the Republican campaigns on the decision. No candidate has offered a public comment.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, said through his spokesperson late Friday that the 15-week ban passed by the GOP-controlled legislature earlier this year would go into effect Saturday and would be the law of the land.

But the new law doesn’t repeal the 1901 law, its Republican supporters say, which was in place until a court injunction in 1973 shortly after the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade established a constitutional right to abortion.

Hobbs said Saturday Ducey was deliberately being unclear about what exactly the rules are governing abortion access in the state to protect Republican candidates.

“It’s clear that he’s trying to create confusion about what is in effect,” Hobbs said, “and hide from this deeply unpopular position that this 1901 ban is and provide some cover for Republicans. They know this is gonna hurt them at the ballot box.”

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, has argued that the older law should take precedence and filed the motion in July to have the Pima County court lift the injunction after the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe.

Barrett Marson, a longtime Republican strategist in the state, told ABC News the decision coming down just weeks before early ballots go out in Arizona “has the potential to impact a wide range of races.”

“This has gone from theoretical to real life, and this is not an issue Republicans want to talk about. They want to talk about the border, inflation, economy and crime,” Marson said. “This is not the issue that Republicans want to run on, and they are going to be forced to answer to it.”

But he also noted, that with a Republican majority in the state legislature, “This is now the law of the land, if you will, and there’s nothing Katie Hobbs or Kris Mayes can do about it necessarily.”

The White House ripped the decision as “dangerous” and potentially “catastrophic” as President Joe Biden leans into criticizing GOP attempts to restrict abortion access ahead of the midterms.

“Make no mistake: this backwards decision exemplifies the disturbing trend across the country of Republican officials at the local and national level dead-set on stripping women of their rights, including through Senator Graham’s proposed national abortion ban,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement on Saturday.

Dr. Baharak Tabarsi, a family medicine doctor who joined the Democratic candidates but identified herself as an Independent voter, said she and her fellow health care providers are devastated by the decision.

“There’s confusion, there’s chaos and I will use the word moral injury towards clinicians having our hands tied behind our backs.”

Abortion rights supporters are expected to gather Saturday outside the Arizona State Capitol at 5 p.m. MT / 8 p.m. ET.

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