Photo by Gage Skidmore.
Photo by Gage Skidmore.

The state lawmaker made several unfounded claims regarding reproductive rights in a recent video posted on social media.

A state lawmaker known for his staunch opposition to women’s reproductive rights once again railed against the federally-protected procedure, calling facilities where abortions are performed “death factories,” and making several other misleading claims about statistics regarding abortions.

During a Facebook Live video last month, Rep. Walt Blackman, R-Snowflake, alleged that nearly twice as many abortions occur in the United States than what is reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the most recent data from the CDC, just over 623,000 abortions were performed in 2016, the majority of which were performed within eight weeks of gestation.

Blackman also spoke out against abortions, characterizing them as a form of “murder,” and labeled Planned Parenthood clinics where abortions are performed as “death factories.”

“Every single day, 3,000 babies are aborted in the United States. One guy dies a couple months ago while committing a crime — George Floyd — and you are up in arms about that guy,” Blackman said during a Facebook Live video on July 17. “I don’t see you protesting, I see you increasing the death factories and making sure Planned Parenthood has enough bodies to go through.”

The killing of Floyd by a Minnesota police officer has been brought up routinely in Blackman’s videos since the incident occurred. The lawmaker’s comments have put him at odds with groups like the American Friends Service Committee-Arizona, a non-profit that had previously worked with Blackman on prison sentencing reform. The group condemned Blackman’s comments as an attempt to ”dehumanize Mr. Floyd and validate police violence,” and was disrespectful to Arizonans with who have a criminal record.

Blackman’s recent comments surrounding women’s right to reproductive choices have been equally criticized as being out-of-touch with voters. Lola Bovell, executive director for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, said that in addition to being unpopular among voters, Blackman’s promise to outlaw abortion is unconstitutional.

“ Support for access to safe, legal abortion is also at a record high with seven in 10 Americans supporting abortion rights,” said Bovell. “Rep. Walt Blackman’s viewpoints on abortion care are outdated, not based in science, and fail to represent the viewpoints of the constituents he was elected to serve. His comments relay that he supports enforcing an unconstitutional 1906 law that criminalizes abortion in Arizona and would support defying the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.”

Providing women with access to reproductive choices — including the option to safely end a pregnancy — has been a constitutionally-protected right since 1973. The courts reaffirmed this right earlier this month when U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland ruled in favor of allowing abortion medication to be sent via mail during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Polling conducted over the years by Gallup suggests that opposition to abortion has waned among Arizonans. While 58% of those polled in 2014 said abortion should be illegal in most cases, that number dropped to 46% in 2020. Support for abortion has remained consistent, with 49% of Arizonans supporting the procedure in both polls.

Some states — including Arizona — have laws that prohibit women from purchasing medication that ends a pregnancy unless it is prescribed and administered to them by a doctor. Chuang ruled that these laws to be unconstitutional during a public health crisis.

“Particularly in light of the limited timeframe during which a medication abortion or any abortion must occur,” Chuang wrote. “Such infringement on the right to an abortion would constitute irreparable harm.”

In March, concerns surrounding reproductive freedom arose when Gov. Doug Ducey ordered a halt to all non-essential surgeries. The order was intended to free up space in medical facilities that were becoming overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, but some states unsuccessfully attempted to use similar executive to ban abortions. 

When asked about how the executive order would affect women’s right to reproductive choices, the governor’s office clarified that his order limiting non-essential surgeries would not restrict women’s access to reproductive health care.

“The intention of the executive order is to reserve critical supplies like ventilators and personal protective equipment for essential surgeries and for health-care workers responding to COVID-19,” Ducey press aide Patrick Ptak told the Arizona Daily Star. “It’s also intended to free up hospital capacity.”

Clinics that provide access to safely end a pregnancy like Planned Parenthood have reported increased demand for the procedure, often from women distraught over economic stress and health concerns linked to the pandemic. Ducey’s announcement that he would not attempt to restrict women’s right to reproductive choices comes as a stark contrast to Blackman’s push to restrict reproductive rights — and, as Bovell pointed out, a more accurate reflection of where Arizonans stand on the issue.

“Rep. Walt Blackman’s recent statements about abortion care are archaic and outright dangerous,” said Bovell. “He is a prime example of why it’s crucial that the electorate in Legislative District 6, and Arizona as a whole, vote this election cycle. It’s time that our elected officials reflect the values of our communities and finally repeal the draconian abortion laws still on the books in our state.”


Continue Reading: The Backlash to Rep. Blackman’s Attacks on George Floyd Is Growing



Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade. We regret the error.