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MCAO weighs in on abortion law and where it stands now

Posted at 6:55 PM, Jun 27, 2022

PHOENIX — The Roe v. Wade decision is impacting Arizonans with many clinics halting services as of Friday.

The decision doesn't take effect for more than 20 days, but Arizonans were left angry and confused over what is considered legal.

“But we have statutes on the books that specifically address abortions so those are the ones that I think we need to look to,” said Interim Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell.

ABC15 sat down with Mitchell to talk about abortion laws.

This Saturday, the ACLU filed an emergency motion in U.S. District Court focusing on the personhood statute.

“I think the legislature, through a series of statutes that they've passed, has made it very clear that that is not their intent, to have a woman that gets an abortion prosecuted,” said Mitchell.

The ACLU says a majority of abortion providers are here in Maricopa County.

ABC15 asked Mitchell if, in her opinion, abortions are legal here in the state.

“The law that is on the books right now, 13-3603 like we've talked about, does specifically make abortions, except in the danger to the mother’s life, illegal in terms of the provider,” said Mitchell.

Some people have argued that Arizona's pre-Roe law would require court action to actually go into effect — but Mitchell has a different take.

“That injunction specially pertains to the Attorney General and the Pima County Attorney. It doesn't pertain to every county attorney,” said Mitchell.

That law was passed when Arizona was still a territory, but Mitchell said the legislature has considered it a few times. Law 13-3603 doesn't have any exemptions for rape or incest and focuses on the providers who could face prison time.

ABC15 reached out to the state Attorney General for clarity. A spokesperson provided this statement: “Our office is engaged in ongoing litigation in federal court where the Ninth Circuit has requested us to formally weigh in on this very issue. We anticipate filing a legal brief next week. Until we’re done with our legal analysis, we encourage you to reach out to the county attorneys who have primary jurisdiction in this matter.”

“Being able to know that there was a way out saved me,” said sexual assault survivor, Jenny. "An abortion actually saved a life, and it was me.”

Jenny, who didn't want to share her last name, now lives in Gilbert.

She said she was abused and sexually assaulted by a family member starting when she was around 10 years old.

When she was almost 16, she found out she was pregnant.

“I was 23 weeks along, and I didn't wait,” said Jenny. “I wasn't trying to make up my mind, I just didn't know.”

At that time, she and her family were living in California. She still remembers vividly the day she got an abortion.

“The day I went, there were protesters outside and they were calling me a murderer,” said Jenny. “I was barely going to be 16, and I was a murderer because of what was done to me.”

She says Friday's decision left her angry and hurting, but now with the lack of legal clarity on Arizona’s abortion laws, she's calling lawmakers and fighting for women who might also be victims.

“In an instant, this can be you,” said Jenny.