Kirsten Engel accuses Rep. Ciscomani of taking Arizona back to 1860s on more than abortion rights

engel

Congressional candidate and former state legislator Kirsten Engel speaking with attendees at a press conference for Moms Demand Action at the Arizona State Capitol building in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

By Bonnie Fuller

May 31, 2024

Kirsten Engel is calling out US House Rep. Juan Ciscomani’s long-time anti-abortion record as the state’s women face an 1864 near-total ban going into effect this fall.

“He ran as an anti-choice candidate [in 2022]. He cheered the repeal of Roe v. Wade, saying he was perfectly comfortable leaving this matter to the states,” Engel told The Copper Courier in an exclusive interview. “This is what you get—an 1864 ban.”

Engel is running against Ciscomani in Arizona’s 6th Congressional District for the second time. She narrowly lost in 2022 and is outraged that “we are going back to the time of the Civil War, when women didn’t have the right to vote or even own property.”

Campaigning on reproductive rights

The former member of both the Arizona Senate and House of Representatives is betting that Ciscomani’s long-standing support for “stripping women of the right to an abortion” is out of step with the fury and despair that many Arizonan women are feeling today.

Ciscoman proudly declares that he is “prolife” on his campaign website, and scores an A+ rating from the conservative non-profit Susan B Anthony Pro-Life Family America.

Meanwhile, Arizona’s women are contending with the 1864 law that is currently slated to take effect at the end of September. Arizona’s Democratic Attorney General, Kris Mayes, was successful in getting the state Supreme Court to delay its implementation while she filed an appeal to the US Supreme Court.

The 1864 law bans all abortions in the state, from conception, with only a narrow exception to save the life of the mother. Doctors face prison time of from two to five years if they violate the law.

“That this is what we’re looking to for the status of women’s healthcare is really outrageous. That’s what people feel in Arizona and that’s what I feel as the mother of a teenage girl,” she told The Copper Courier. “It’s a top issue in my campaign so that we can guarantee these rights, we can restore the rights that we lost with Roe v Wade.”

Ciscomani’s ties to abortion ban

While Ciscomani issued a statement stating that the 1864 ban was “a disaster for women and providers,” he also emphasized his support for the state’s current 15-week ban, insisting that “it respected women.”

Arizona’s current 15-week abortion ban was signed into law in 2022 by former Governor Doug Ducey after Roe v. Wade was overturned. It provides no exceptions for rape and incest and only allows an abortion to save the life of the mother or if the mother risks substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.

Engel told The Copper Courier that she is not impressed by Ciscomani’s condemnation of the 1864 ban. “He’s not fooling anyone,” she said, and pointed out that Ciscomani played a huge role in creating the right wing majority on the state Supreme Court which reinstated the ban.

Before running for Congress, Ciscomani worked as a Senior Policy Advisor for Governor Ducey for over a decade and was part of the group of advisors who vetted state Supreme Court judicial nominees for the governor. He recommended all four of the Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of the 1864 law.

“Those justices which brought us back to 1864 … were really chosen by Juan Ciscomani,” stressed Engel.

Restoring national protections

But the threat to reproductive choice and healthcare to women in Arizona doesn’t end at the state level with Ciscomani if he’s re-elected. If Donald Trump, who he has endorsed, becomes president in November, abortion could effectively be banned nationwide.

Engel warns voters that a second Trump presidency could enforce another 1800s law – the 1873 Comstock Act – which would virtually end abortion in America by banning the shipment of both abortion pills and the surgical equipment used by OBGYNs to perform abortions, treat miscarriages, and also to conduct reproductive health check-ups.

The plan to enforce the Comstock Act is outlined in Project 2025, a detailed guide to how Trump can govern. It is available to anyone on line.

Engel believes that for Trump and Republicans like Ciscomani, “the end goal is to really dismantle women’s healthcare starting with reproductive healthcare, but we also know they are aiming at the availability of contraception and IVF has gotten mixed up in this as well.”

“I think the most dangerous thing is to have politicians setting healthcare,” she said. “This is something we need to leave to women and their doctors and their family members to work out what is the proper course of treatment. But we’ve seen the devastating impacts of what happens when politicians start to dictate women’s healthcare.”

If Engel can flip the 6th congressional seat from red to blue, it will help the Democrats retake the House where they can act as a backstop on Trump, if he’s elected, and any efforts he makes to ban abortion nationally.

Archaic environmental policy

Engel also accuses Ciscomni of having “a long history of extremism in his political ideology” as well as in the area of abortion. The Congressman was the former governor of the Patriot Academy.

The Patriot Academy is an evangelical Christian organization which trains students and military veterans to “influence government policy with a Biblical worldview.” It supports the view that America was founded as a “Christian” nation and offers courses on “Biblical Citizenship” as well as gun training and the 2nd Amendment.

With her experience as an environmental and administrative law professor at the University of Arizona, it’s not surprising that Engel also critiques Ciscomani for wanting to “take us back to the 1860s” on environmental issues.

She points to Ciscomani’s vote to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, which has invested $10 billion in clean energy projects in its first year alone in Arizona, resulting in 13,000 new jobs, including in Ciscomani’s own district.

“One of the first votes by my opponent Juan Ciscomani was to repeal those clean energy supports to address climate change,” she said.

“And it makes no sense. Not only was the Inflation Reduction Act combating climate change and its terrible impacts, it was bringing good paying jobs to this district.”

Arizona at forefront of the climate crisis

And she reminds voters as summer is beginning that In Arizona “we are ground zero in terms of the impacts of climate change. We’re seeing this in drought, we’re seeing this in wildfires. We’re seeing this in extreme heat. You see this in our neighborhoods – seniors, young people. It’s dangerous to be in these types of conditions.”

Last summer Gov. Katie Hobbs declared an extreme heat emergency after Phoenix experienced its hottest summer on record with average temperatures of 97 degrees as well as having the driest summer on record. At least 295 people died of heat-related causes in Maricopa County alone.

Meanwhile, Trump has repeatedly called climate change a “hoax” and promised oil executives that if they donate $1 billion to his presidential campaign, he will reverse Joe Biden’s environmental rules and policies and prevent new climate protective policies from being enacted.

Engel vows that if elected to the US House she would make addressing Arizona’s water shortage a top priority in Congress. “I want to move Arizona forward, not backwards. We are dealing with drought conditions,” she said.

“There’s parts of this district where they have literally run out of groundwater due to over-pumping. Homes have lost access to water or have had to invest thousands of dollars to extend their wells to be able to continue to access groundwater.

“The federal government can play a role here in protecting our groundwater resources, especially in making sure that farming has the resources to use the technology that will allow them to grow crops using less water. And we will look for markets for less water intensive crops that we can grow here in Arizona.”

The League of Conservation Voters, which works to elect politicians who will tackle the climate crisis, gives Juan Ciscomani a score of only 14% versus, for example, Reuben Gallego, who is running to represent Arizona in the Senate and has a rating of 97%.

It’s not surprising that Engel, whose daughter, Helene, is completing her freshman year in college also sees reproductive freedom and climate change as the top issues for young people.

“Talk to any young person [about the environment], this is one of their top issues as it should be. It’s very important to our future.”

Author

  • Bonnie Fuller

    Bonnie Fuller is the former CEO & Editor-in-Chief of HollywoodLife.com, and the former Editor-in-Chief of Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, USWeekly and YM. She now writes about politics and reproductive rights. She can be followed on her Substack at: BonnieFuller1.

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