Local prosecutors differ on abortion enforcement

By Nick Phillips | Arizona Capitol Times  

The U.S. Supreme Court could rewrite the national landscape for abortion access, but it’s up to local officials to enforce any restrictions – and candidates running for key offices in Arizona have different plans if Roe v. Wade is reversed.

Anticipating the court’s move, the Arizona Legislature passed House Bill 1164 in March, banning abortion after 15 weeks, except in the case of a medical emergency. The bill mirrors the Mississippi law that’s in front of the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Women who receive an abortion and doctors who provide them could face prosecution under the law.

There’s also a century-old law completely banning abortions that dates back to Arizona’s territory days, though it’s not completely clear whether that would take effect if the Supreme Court overturns Roe.

But Democrats in and running for prosecutorial offices say they’ll try to ensure nobody is punished for getting an abortion, regardless of state law.

Julie Gunnigle, the Democratic candidate for Maricopa County Attorney, has said that she wouldn’t enforce Arizona laws against abortion, even if they’re allowed under a future Supreme Court ruling. “Under my watch, no one will be criminalized for making a private decision about their own body,” she said in a statement on May 3.

Gunnigle has argued that declining to pursue abortion cases would fall under prosecutorial discretion.

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