Kari Lake calls on Arizona county sheriffs to enforce 1864 abortion ban

paul gosar kari lake

US Rep. Paul Gosar (left) looks on as Republican candidate for US Senate Kari Lake (center) addresses a crowd at the Mohave County Republican Party's 77th Annual Lincoln Dinner on April 13, 2024.

By Camaron Stevenson

April 19, 2024

Republican candidate for US Senate Kari Lake on Saturday seemed to solidify her support for Arizona’s total abortion ban and called on county sheriffs to enforce the law once it goes into effect.

“We can have that law, but it’s not going to be enforced with the people we have in office,” Lake said in a recording obtained by The Copper Courier. “No, we don’t have that law. She’s not enforcing the law, so we don’t have them. The only people who can enforce that law are our sheriffs. And we need to start asking the sheriffs if they’re willing to enforce that. I don’t think they are.”

Lake’s statements at a Mohave County Republican Party event clarify her position on the soon-to-be reinstated, total ban on abortion. Despite coming out in strong support of reinstating the 1864 law during her run for governor in 2022, once it was announced that the law would go into effect, she opposed the ruling.

“It is abundantly clear that the pre-statehood law is out of step with Arizonans,” Lake said in a statement last week. “I am calling on Katie Hobbs and the State Legislature to come up with an immediate common sense solution.”

Clarifying support for the ban

While many took Lake’s opposition to mean she, like other Republicans facing an election in November, instead supported the state’s 15-week ban, her comments to Mohave County residents seem to confirm that her support of a total ban is resolute—but that an exception should be allowed for victims of sexual assault.

“I agree with President Trump, that we need to have exceptions for rape and incest,” said Lake. “It’s very reasonable to ask for that. I know that there’s very few abortions that happen that are [due to] rape and incest, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for that.”

Despite this recent display of concern over the law, comments made during Lake’s campaign for governor imply that she has long known the 1864 abortion ban did not include an exception for victims of sexual assault, such as pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. When she spoke in support of the ban on the talk show Conservative Circus, she described it as a “great law” but only mentioned its exception that would “prohibit abortion in Arizona except to save the life of a mother.”

Minimizing rape-related pregnancy

While Lake’s stance does put her in line with former President Donald Trump—who paved the way to overturn federal protections for abortion services and, in turn, Arizona’s total ban—in regards to exceptions for sexual assault victims and when the life of the mother is at-risk, her claim that pregnancies resulting from rape are rare is incorrect. A study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that the rape-related pregnancy rate is 5%. In Arizona, that amounts to an estimated 180 rape-related pregnancies in 2023.

Abortion bans like Arizona’s have been found to result in a major spike in pregnancies caused by rape. The American Medical Association estimates that since Roe v Wade was overturned, there have been 64,500 rape-related pregnancies in the 14 states studied—including 59,000 in nine that have banned abortion completely. In the five states studied that have an exception for rape victims, 5,500 women who were sexually assaulted became pregnant as a result.

Pushing police to enforce the ban

Lake’s suggestion that sheriffs enforce the law would mean arresting those found to be in violation of the law as it currently stands, which would include doctors and women who are pregnant as a result of sexual assault, would put local law enforcement in direct contradiction of the state’s chief legal officer, Attorney General Kris Mayes.

Mayes was given full authority over prosecution for violations of the state’s abortion laws by Gov. Katie Hobbs and has repeatedly said she would not prosecute the 15-week ban or the 1864 total ban.

“Let me be completely clear,” Mayes said in a statement. “As long as I am Attorney General, no woman or doctor will be prosecuted under this draconian law in this state.”

Should sheriffs or police choose to arrest women for seeking abortions or medical professionals for offering abortion services, Mayes would simply decline to prosecute, resulting in a time-consuming exercise that would take officers away from other duties, and open law enforcement agencies up to potential lawsuits from those who have been arrested.

Lake’s callout to begin enforcing the ban also appears to be premature; Abortion is currently still legal in Arizona until 15 weeks of pregnancy, and it is unclear when the total ban will go into effect. Providers have said they will continue to offer abortion-related services until they receive a court mandate to cease.

Author

  • Camaron Stevenson

    Camaron is the Founding Editor and Chief Political Correspondent for The Copper Courier, and has worked as a journalist in Phoenix for over a decade. He also teaches multimedia journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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