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Abortion, reproductive rights protestors in front of the Supreme Court.

America’s reproductive rights nightmare is entering a crucial week

May 13, 2024 1:12 pm Published by Leave a comment

First published in The Hill.

Right now, millions of Arizonans are living in a special kind of hell.

Anyone in the state who could become pregnant, or whose family members, friends or partners could become pregnant, is wondering if the door to reproductive care they might need will slam completely shut in just a few weeks.

Their future is in the hands of the state Senate, which could decide this week if a near-total abortion ban will be repealed or go into effect this spring.

Last Wednesday the Arizona House succeeded — after three tries — in passing a bill to repeal the draconian statewide abortion ban, vintage 1864, that the state Supreme Court had ruled was valid.

Now the Senate has to act if a repeal is to happen, and the earliest that could take place would be this Wednesday, May 1.

The ban in question is extreme. It begins at conception with no exceptions for rape or incest.

That means no legal alternative if contraception fails, if pregnancy comes way too soon or way too late in life, or if, horrifically, it is forced on you.

The one exception is for life-threatening complications of pregnancy, but that’s hardly reassuring. What happens when a doctor, at risk of prison time, must make a judgment call as to whether their patient might die or will definitely die without an emergency abortion?

What happens when the patient’s condition goes downhill so fast that it’s suddenly too late to save them? People do die under these circumstances.

And if an abortion is performed, what happens if a local prosecutor comes along later and disagrees with the doctor that the procedure was necessary?

Even people who want to become pregnant will think twice about it because it makes the possibility of a risky pregnancy infinitely more dangerous and frightening.

In fact, according to one survey 68 percent of OB-GYNs say that ever since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, it’s been much harder to manage pregnancy-related emergencies.

Meanwhile, on the same day the Arizona House voted, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether an Idaho abortion ban violates federal law requiring hospitals to provide emergency medical care. A ruling in that case could have national implications.

Of course, we already know whom to thank for all this: Donald Trump, whose Supreme Court appointments led to the overturning of Roe.

The fallout from that disastrous ruling is splitting the Republican Party. So now we get to watch prominent Republicans trying to have it both ways.

Arizona Senate candidate and MAGA icon Kari Lake is flip-flopping on her state’s looming ban: she was for it before she was against it, and now it seems like she’s for it again.

Trump has done an about-face, saying he would support a national 15-week ban, then quickly abandoning that position once he realized it’s poison on the campaign trail.

But we shouldn’t be fooled by these gyrations.

We shouldn’t doubt that if Trump is elected, an abortion ban will be a reality.

Trump’s position on abortion has been whatever is politically expedient. But a national ban is the heart’s desire of far-right forces that are two things Trump is not: disciplined and unwavering.

This issue will be a runaway train without a president committed to stopping it, and Trump would not be that president.

Trump still craves approbation from his MAGA base. And a person who openly aspires to be a “dictator” (even if it’s only for one day) doesn’t deliberately alienate a reliable and powerful constituency.

If Congress were in Republican hands and an abortion ban landed on Trump’s desk, would he veto it? It’s unimaginable.

If Congress isn’t controlled by Republicans, the right has another way to get to Trump. Right now, he is under intense pressure from right-wing groups that want him to use the 151-year-old Comstock Act to halt the distribution of abortion medications in the mail. That would allow him to circumvent Congress to stop most abortions, if no abortion ban bill was forthcoming from the Hill.

Back in Arizona, if the state Senate this week fails to derail the near-total abortion ban, it could go into effect as early as June 8.

But even if the Senate votes against the 1864 ban, that will not solve the problem right away. Arizona will still have an existing 15-week ban that was put in place following the fall of Roe.

That puts it among several states where whole generations of people who came of age after Roe are experiencing, or about to experience, a nightmare scenario that hasn’t existed for people of reproductive age for decades.

It’s a very good bet that they will be first in line on Election Day.