Updated Apr 9, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Republicans rush to distance from "disaster" Arizona abortion ruling

Rep. Juan Ciscomani, wearing a light blue suit, white shirt and blue floral tie, speaking to reporters in a House office building.

Rep. Juan Ciscomani. Photo: Valerie Plesch/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republican lawmakers and candidates for Congress are scrambling to create distance between themselves and an Arizona Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday upholding a near-total ban on abortion in the state.

Why it matters: It's part of the difficult political balancing act Republicans have had to perform since Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022.

Driving the news: The Arizona court, which is composed entirely of Republican-appointed justices, ruled 4-2 that an 1864 law making it a felony to perform an abortion supersedes the 15-week ban state legislators passed in 2022.

  • The 19th-century law provides exceptions only to save the life of the mother.

What they're saying: Rep. Juan Ciscomani (R-Ariz.), who represents a seat President Biden won in 2020, called the ruling a "disaster for women and providers" in a statement posted to social media.

  • Ciscomani said the 15-week ban "protected the rights of women and new life," but the territorial law is "archaic."
  • Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), another Biden-district Republican, said the issue "should be decided by Arizonans, not legislated from the bench," urging the state legislature to "address this issue immediately."
  • Kelly Cooper, a Republican running to challenge Rep. Greg Stanton (D-Ariz.), called for the state legislature to "begin work immediately on reinstating" the 15-week ban.

Zoom out: It's not just Arizonans weighing in to voice disagreement. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said she was "appalled" by the "Draconian" ruling, telling Axios: "Hard pass."

  • "This is an awful ruling," said Biden-district Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.). "I care about the difficult choice women have to make, said I would reject a national abortion ban, and kept my word."

Zoom in: Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told Axios he's "counseled our members ... [to] explain to your constituents what your abortion position is."

  • He added: "Democrats are spending a lot of energy and money lying about our positions, and I think in that case if you disagree with any ruling, you ought to be vocal about it."
  • A GOP strategist working on House races told Axios, "Republicans have been crystal clear where they stand, and they must continue to articulate their commonsense position."

The other side: Democrats were quick to tie Republican members of Congress to the ruling.

  • "Voters know that Juan Ciscomani and David Schweikert have been working overtime to restrict access to abortion care," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson Lauryn Fanguen said in a statement.
  • Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) said in a statement to Axios that "extreme politicians created this problem, and you better believe they're going to try to run away from it."
  • "They publicly twist themselves into pretzels to distance themselves from court decisions that are completely in lockstep with the horrible and dangerous policies outlined by their party leadership. ... It's outrageous."

What to watch: Democrats hope that rulings like this, along with abortion-focused ballot initiatives in several states — including, potentially, Arizona – will keep the issue atop voters' minds and drive Democratic turnout.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional statements.

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