/ Modified apr 30, 2024 11:44 p.m.

Changing their tune: Turmoil within Republicans over abortion and its election impact

Arizona's senate requires some bipartisan support to repeal the 1864 near-total ban. But, some Republicans are fighting to keep the ban, while others are wavering.

State Capitol The Buzz The Arizona state Capitol on March 3, 2020.
Ariana Brocious/AZPM

Just weeks after Arizona’s Supreme Court upheld a near-total abortion ban that dates back to the Civil War, Democratic lawmakers tried to repeal the law. But some House Republicans, like Speaker Ben Toma, had a different plan.

“The last thing we should be doing today is rushing a bill through the legislative process to repeal a law that has been enacted and reaffirmed by the legislature several times,” Toma said.

Democrats like Representative Analise Ortiz and Assistant Minority Leader Oscar De Los Santos protested attempts from Republicans to block a repeal, even going as far as to call out Republicans who have seemingly backed away from their anti-abortion stance, like Representative Matt Gress.

“He's sponsored to enshrine fetal personhood into law do not fall for it,” Ortiz said. “He has shown us who he is. He does not care about the women who will die because of this horrific ban.”

Eventually, the Arizona House of Representatives passed a repeal of the law but only with the support of three Republicans who crossed party lines–Matt Gress, Justin Wilmeth, and Tim Dunn. All of whom supported or introduced legislation in the past that would restrict abortions or declare the fetus to be a person–a stance that critics say leads to abortion bans. 

Screenshot of House Vote on 2022 abortion ban VIEW LARGER A screenshot shows how the Arizona House of Representatives voted in 2022 on S.B. 1164, which restricted abortions to 15 weeks, before the overturn of Dobbs vs. Jackson. Republican Representatives Tim Dunn and Justin Wilmeth voted for the restriction.
Paola Rodriguez/AZPM News

Last week, Republican Representative Alexander Kolodin showed his dismay at Republicans, like Gress, who voted to repeal the 1864 ban.

“What are we talking about doing in this chamber in exchange for winning that election? We're talking about killing infants,” Kolodin said. “But what we don't respect are folks who are willing to move their position around like the wind, just for political advantage.”

Matt Gress Statements VIEW LARGER Screenshots of a statement from Republican Representative Matt Gress and his campaign website indicate his new stance on abortion access.
Paola Rodriguez/AZPM News

But Gress, Dunn, and Wilmeth are not the only ones changing their tunes. Republican Senate candidate Kari Lake said the court’s ruling is out of line for Arizonans.

“I chose life, but I'm not every woman,” Lake said. “I want to make sure that every woman who finds herself pregnant has more choices so that she can make that choice that I made.”

However, during her 2022 race for governor, Lake said on her website that she was “pro-life and always will be.”

Kari Lake Wayback Machine, abortion VIEW LARGER A screenshot of Republican Senate candidate Kari Lake's website from her 2022 gubernatorial run indicates her stance on abortion as "pro-life" on Nov. 10, 2021.
Paola Rodriguez/AZPM News

As recent as last week, in an interview with the Idaho Dispatch, Lake said she was disappointed that Attorney General Kris Mayes plans not to enforce the ban.

“Unfortunately, the people running our state have said we're not going to enforce it,” Lake said in a video interview. “So it's really political theater, we don't have that law as much as many of us wish we did.”

As candidates navigate ways to best win this upcoming election, pollster, and CEO of Noble Predictive Insights Mike Noble says Democrats and Republicans will try their best to craft stances that can guarantee wins. 

“(Democrats) know every day they can keep it on abortion, this topic, they're winning,” Noble said. “That's their key wedge issue. However, if Republicans can keep it on immigration and/or inflation, they're winning. So when you know these issues, it makes a heck of a lot of sense of what you're seeing out there of why it's happening.”

Noble says his polls show for Arizonans abortion ranks below immigration and inflation as top election issues, data backed up by political statements like one made by Lake on her website.

“I'm not going to Washington DC to impose federal restrictions on something that's already been sent back to the States. I'm going to Washington DC to secure our borders, strengthen our families, and help President Trump make America great again.”

Voters may see at least one ballot measure in the fall dealing with abortion access. Before that determination is made Democrats in the legislature will try to repeal the 1864 ban with the help of a handful of Republicans who are fighting their own party.

By posting comments, you agree to our
AZPM encourages comments, but comments that contain profanity, unrelated information, threats, libel, defamatory statements, obscenities, pornography or that violate the law are not allowed. Comments that promote commercial products or services are not allowed. Comments in violation of this policy will be removed. Continued posting of comments that violate this policy will result in the commenter being banned from the site.

By submitting your comments, you hereby give AZPM the right to post your comments and potentially use them in any other form of media operated by this institution.
AZPM is a service of the University of Arizona and our broadcast stations are licensed to the Arizona Board of Regents who hold the trademarks for Arizona Public Media and AZPM. We respectfully acknowledge the University of Arizona is on the land and territories of Indigenous peoples.
The University of Arizona