Arizona Lawmakers Snatch Defeat From the Jaws of Victory

Mary Szoch is Director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council. Connor Semelsberger is Government Relations Director at The Heritage Foundation. This article appeared in The Epoch Times on May 28, 2024. 

Almost as soon as the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in favor of a pre-Roe law that protects life from conception, surprisingly, some pro-life legislators in the state began demanding that this lifesaving law be curtailed. Late last month, they were successful.

Despite Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma’s protests, several Republicans joined forces with Democrats to repeal the life-at-conception law, which Gov. Katie Hobbs quickly signed.

Some pro-life commentators have heralded the Republicans responsible for the repeal as pro-life heroes who are giving Arizonans the best chance at defeating a radical ballot measure in November that would create a state constitutional right to abortion. They argue that a 15-week protection would be more sustainable than a law protecting life at conception.

We would argue that they’re wrong, on both the politics and the policy.

According to 2021 abortion data from Arizona, an estimated 6,324 abortions took place before 15 weeks from May through October. In that same time period, only 412 abortions took place after 15 weeks. If these Republicans hadn’t needlessly intervened and Arizona’s abortion law was properly enforced, it could have saved countless lives. 

In fact, the new 15-week law will take eight years to save as many lives as the original life-at-conception law would have saved in the six months before this November’s elections. 

Worse still, there is no strong evidence that the 15-week law is more likely than the life-at-conception law to survive the November ballot measure, let alone eight more years. 

Indeed, there has not been a single public-facing poll—or ballot box—that shows support for an abortion ballot measure lessens when the state’s current law protects fewer babies (enables more abortion). Yes, efforts to fight off a ballot initiative allowing abortion through birth failed last year in Ohio, a state that previously protected life at six weeks, but a ballot initiative also failed to protect babies after they are born alive in Montana, a state that doesn’t protect life until 24 weeks gestation. 

Pro-lifers keep falling into the same trap. Since the Dobbs decision, attempts to reach the moveable middle and fend off abortion extremism have promised legislation that is “reasonable,” and “sustainable.” But in Kansas, Montana, Kentucky, and Ohio, this approach has failed miserably. Pro-lifers have gained nothing with this conciliatory approach.

In November, the pro-abortion machine in Arizona will follow the same playbook they always do. Stories of babies who have received a challenging diagnosis in utero, and of moms with severe pre-eclampsia or premature rupture of the membranes will once again flood the media.

Just this past week, for instance, the group pushing the abortion ballot measure called the 15-week law an “extreme ban” that “punishes patients experiencing pregnancy complications and survivors of rape and incest.” And after U.S. Senate candidate Kari Lake came out in favor of the repeal, her polling numbers against likely Democrat opponent Rueben Gallego actually decreased.

Pro-lifers must be sensible in their efforts to defend the unborn, of course. But this latest move to repeal the full protections in Arizona represents capitulation to evil, not political savvy. In Arizona, not only is there strong data to show just how many lives could have been saved, but there is also no concrete evidence that repealing the life-at-conception law has a higher likelihood of leading to pro-life or Republican victories in November.