The punishment that awaits women in Arizona for abortion



If you haven’t watched it yet, the Thursday night Rachel Maddow abortion segment is a must-see for how brilliantly the MSNBC anchor eviscerates the disingenuous claim by the glib professional anti-choicers that they don’t intend to make criminals of women under criminal abortion bans and for how she takes the Beltway pundit class to task for the way they have allowed said glib professional anti-choicers to lie flagrantly about that in response to Donald Trump’s comments indicating his support for punishing women at a town hall on Wednesday.

But the Beltway knuckleheads aren’t the only ones deserving of a stern tongue-lashing. There are several prominent media people here in Arizona who were all too eager to run with some bullshit Planned Parenthood “sting” videos, produced by known anti-choice lying creeps, last summer. That was some highly titillating stuff for them, warranting several TV spots, angst-ridden newspaper editorials, and the burning question of whether Planned Parenthood was “toxic” to Dem electeds on the Sunday Square Off political show. Strangely, there’s been no mention this Trump statement in local media, despite the winner of the Arizona GOP Presidential primary (by a lot) having been endorsed by such luminaries as Joe Arpaio and Jan Brewer.

Yeah, I know, lots of stuff going on at the Legislature right now. I’m sure that’s why Trump’s statement and the fallout from it isn’t getting the same kind of breathless coverage that Planned Parenthood videos got back in July, despite there being no real “local angle” to follow here (no fetal tissue donation programs exist in Arizona). Yeah, sure.

Speaking of the Lege, I found this piece from 2013 in the Arizona Republic, in which reporter Alia Rau compiled a timeline of abortion restrictions passed in our state over the years.

1864: Arizona Territory lawmakers include a clause in territorial code making abortions illegal.

1973: The U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling in the landmark Roe vs. Wade case, requiring states to legalize abortions.

1989: State law requires juveniles to get parental consent to have an abortion. Federal courts later overturned the law.

1996: State law again requires juveniles to get parental consent to have an abortion.

1997: State law bans partial-birth abortions. A federal court later ruled the law unconstitutional.

1999: State law establishes additional regulations and safety standards for abortion clinics.

2002: State law prohibits physician assistants from performing surgical abortions. A law requires health-care plans to cover contraception.

2003: U.S. Congress passes a law banning partial-birth abortions. Democratic Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoes legislation that would have allowed employers to opt out of covering contraception in their health-care plans.

2004: Napolitano vetoes legislation that would have required women to meet with an abortion provider 24 hours before getting an abortion.

2005: Napolitano vetoes legislation that would have allowed medical providers to declare a personal objection and refuse to provide emergency contraception. The Legislature passes and Napolitano signs a bill that allows a person to be charged with murder for actions that result in miscarriage…

And on and on, through the date of that article, and of course there have been multiple new restrictions since then, including two this week. In recent years, most have been pushed under the guise of “health and safety” and the deep looooove anti-choicers allegedly have for women, as anti-choicers have been careful to avoid the pitfall that ensnared Donald Trump.

But take note of the first entry in that list, the law believed to have originated in the 19th century when Arizona was a territory. It is still on the books today.

Here it is:

13-3604. Soliciting abortion; punishment; exception
A woman who solicits from any person any medicine, drug or substance whatever, and takes it, or who submits to an operation, or to the use of any means whatever, with intent thereby to procure a miscarriage, unless it is necessary to preserve her life, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than one nor more than five years.

It’s a moot law now because of Roe v Wade, but guess what happens if that decision is overturned and abortion is “left to the states”, as we are assured so often will be the case? Then that law goes into effect immediately. At least one anti-choice organization in Arizona, the Center for Arizona Policy, is well aware of the existence of this law. Here’s how it’s described (emphasis mine) on their information page on abortion laws in the state:

Unenforceable Laws Due to Judicial Action

…Soliciting Abortion; Punishment; Exception (A.R.S. § 13-3604) – A woman may not seek an abortion. (Roe v. Wade)…

“A woman may not seek an abortion.” CAP left a pretty important detail out of that description, that being the little tidbit about the one to five years in prison that a woman faces for terminating a pregnancy, or even attempting to do that! If the anti-choicers of Arizona don’t agree with Trump that a woman should be punished for abortion, and I’m sure the glib professionals at Center for Arizona Policy would swear up and down that is the case, then it is strange indeed that they haven’t simply put forth a bill to void A.R.S. 13-3604 to prove that. A cynical person might think they’ve left that law in place because they actually like the idea of making women criminals under criminal abortion bans.

But it seems that cynicism is only permitted when evaluating women and those who provide health care to them. Thus, the pundits default to the worst assumption there – that Planned Parenthood might be selling baby parts for profit, culled from women who cavalierly abort pregnancies in the seventh month for sheer funsies. Where anti-choicers are concerned, pundits tend to assume the opposite – that they’re good-hearted people who are only in it to protect women and save babies. Thus, Donald Trump misspoke and the real voice of the anti-abortion movement comes from the glib professionals who recite carefully practiced lies that obscure how brutally they intend to punish women.


  1. Don’t forget the Supreme Court packing Ducey wants to do under the radar. Disgusting. Putinesque.

    • Dicey has aready packed the court, he now wants to expand it further and add greater depth if bodies. When will the (poor, Latino, and lower-middle class) people of Arizona realize that they MUST vote in off-Presidential year elections! Rich people know they Must bite in off year elections. When will we equal their turnout?

      • Two words were changed by my autocorrect/predictive text “if” should be “of” and “bite” should be “vote”. Dicey is less a autocorrect error than my iPad reading my mind ….

  2. Could this all just be an April Fool’s Day joke? Even if so, very ugly. Looking forward to this being part of today’s Sam Kelley Show #PowerPlay with you and Mel Young.

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