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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Dani Anguiano in Los Angeles

Kamala Harris blames Donald Trump for Arizona abortion-ban debacle in speech

Harris speaks on reproductive freedom at El Rio Neighborhood center in Tucson, Arizona, on 12 April 2024.
Harris speaks on reproductive freedom at El Rio Neighborhood center in Tucson, Arizona, on 12 April 2024. Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Kamala Harris pinned the blame for Arizona’s abortion ban squarely on Donald Trump, who she described as the “architect of this healthcare crisis” in a speech at a campaign event in Tucson on Friday.

The state was left reeling after the Arizona supreme court ruled earlier this week that a civil war-era law banning abortion in the state with almost no exceptions is now enforceable.

“Here in Arizona they have turned back the clock to the 1800s to take away a woman’s most fundamental right – the right to make decisions about her own body,” the vice-president said, adding that women in the state now “live under one of the most extreme abortion bans in our nation”.

“The overturning of Roe was, without any question, a seismic event and this ban here in Arizona is one of the biggest aftershocks yet,” she said.

The decision in Arizona will have major implications for reproductive healthcare across the US south-west and will likely make abortion a defining issue of the 2024 race. Republicans in the state, who cheered the overturning of Roe v Wade and once passionately supported a ban, including the far-right Senate candidate Kari Lake, have suddenly backpedalled.

The ban was made possible by Trump, Harris argued, who had said he is “proudly” responsible for the supreme court overturning Roe v Wade in 2022.

“Former president Donald Trump did this. During his campaign in 2016, Donald Trump said women should be punished for seeking an abortion,” she said.

Arizona’s ban is a new inflection point, Harris said. “It has demonstrated once and for all that overturning Roe was 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.”

The law in Arizona, which predates its statehood, does not provide exceptions for rape or incest and abortions are permitted only if the mother’s life is at risk.

Trump, like other high-profile Republicans, has argued Arizona’s court went too far: “That’ll be straightened out, and as you know, it’s all about states’ rights.”

Lake, who had previously expressed her support for the ban and even cited the number of the 1864 code, said this week that she agrees with Trump and has urged lawmakers to repeal it.

Support for abortion in the US has been at record highs. Arizona’s Republican lawmakers, with their sudden changes of heart, seem to be aware that the state’s drastic ban is deeply unpopular among voters and could have repercussions in November.

Among those who came out against the court’s decision was Republican state representative Matt Gress. “This decision cannot stand,” said Gress. “I categorically reject rolling back the clock to a time when slavery was still legal and we could lock up women and doctors because of an abortion.”

Gress had tried to bring forth a bill to repeal the ban but then voted with other Republicans to move to recess.

The law does not have the support of Arizonans, Lake said in a video on Thursday. Political analysts have said that the near-total ban would help draw moderate voters to Democrats while mobilizing young voters and voters of color.

The ban has fired up Democrats, who have already made Arizona a top priority in 2024 and hope the issue will mobilize voters in the state and across the US.

“Arizona, this November up and down the ballot reproductive freedom is at stake, and you have the power to protect it with your vote,” Harris said.

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