Updated Apr 9, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Arizona bombshell tests Trump's abortion gamble

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Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

One day after former President Trump declared that abortion should be left to the states, the Arizona Supreme Court revived an 1864 law that effectively bans all abortions, with exceptions only to save the mother's life.

Why it matters: The swing-state ruling delivered a massive political gift to Democrats, who could not have asked for better timing to highlight the consequences of Trump's abortion position.

  • "This ruling is a result of the extreme agenda of Republican elected officials who are committed to ripping away women's freedom," President Biden said in a statement.
  • "This is what leaving it to the states looks like," tweeted Biden campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa.

The other side: "President Trump could not have been more clear. These are decisions for people of each state to make," Trump campaign press secretary Karoline Leavitt said in response to questions about the ruling.

The big picture: By declining to endorse a national abortion ban, Trump had hoped to insulate himself from the types of Democratic attacks that have proven so effective in elections over the last two years.

  • But Democrats have refused to let Trump off the hook, especially given that he continues to boast about appointing the three Supreme Court justices who helped overturn abortion rights under Roe v. Wade.
  • While Trump says he supports exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother, the Biden campaign argues he is responsible for "draconian" abortion bans in states across the country — including the 1864 law in Arizona.

Between the lines: The Dobbs decision in which the Supreme Court rejected a federal right to abortion is cited repeatedly throughout the Arizona ruling, underscoring the difficult tightrope Trump is walking.

What they're saying: "Arizona just rolled back the clock to a time before women could vote – and, by his own admission, there's one person responsible: Donald Trump," Vice President Kamala Harris said in a statement.

Zoom out: The political consequences of the Arizona ruling were already reverberating on Tuesday.

  • The White House announced Harris would travel to Tucson, Arizona, on Friday "to continue her leadership in the fight for reproductive freedoms."
  • Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), who's running for Senate against Trump ally Kari Lake, said the ruling was "devastating for Arizona women and their families."
  • Lake, meanwhile, disavowed the ban — despite previously calling it a "great law" — and called on the Arizona legislature to "come up with an immediate common sense solution that Arizonans can support."

What to watch: The Arizona ruling sets up a high-stakes battle over a possible November ballot measure that would protect abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Trump campaign press secretary Karoline Leavitt.

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