abortion, Black women, election, abortion rights

Arizona’s New Abortion Ban Echoes Civil War-Era Restrictions

Arizona's upholding of a 1864 abortion ban has ties to racially motivated restrictions on the procedure.

Arizona’s latest abortion legislation has positioned the state as one of the nation’s most stringent when it comes to reproductive rights. Critics highlight the law’s origins in 1864, pointing to its troubling racial history.

This April, Arizona lawmakers voted to uphold an abortion law originally passed in 1864. Its reinstatement follows the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022. According to Vox, the new ruling leaves nearly 1.6 million people’s reproductive autonomy in jeopardy.

The law specifies that anyone who “provides, supplies, and administers” an abortion procedure or drugs to induce it faces two to five years in prison. The law only provides exceptions for pregnant women who will die without having one. However, the legislation derived from an anti-abortion movement beginning in the mid-19th century. The effort meant to curb white women’s desires outside the home as more participated in the women’s suffrage movement.

In fact, anti-abortion causes sought to exclusively ensure white women were fulfilling the obligations to uphold conservative American values. The laws also benefited doctors, a profession comprised of a majority of white men at the time, creating a monopoly on who could perform the procedure.

While original sentiments on abortion before this time were less religious-based, doctors and clergymen later joined forces to demonize abortion, spearheaded by Harvard doctor Horatio Storer. This subsequent shift led to jail time and hefty fines for those defying the regulations.

However, today’s version of the law especially impacts minorities, many with less agency and resources. According to U.S. Census data, Black people make up over 5.5% of Arizona’s population. Historical and racially motivated protections on abortion were meant to benefit whiteness, leaving nonwhite people in the most vulnerable position. The hot-button issue is also prevalent for Black women as the presidential election nears.

While the ban will go into effect on April 24, Democratic lawmakers urge a repeal. Arizona’s Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes expressed that she will not enforce the ruling. Regardless, residents remain concerned about their reproductive freedoms.

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