Thousands of abortion rights demonstrators marched in response to the recently leaked Supreme Court draft opinion signaling the possible end to Roe v. Wade. Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff, Gilbert, and Prescott all took to the streets to protest the news, which would have devastating effects in Arizona.
“Pro-life is a lie, you don’t care if people die,” chanted hundreds of activists outside the Phoenix State Capitol the night after the draft leak.
Arizona is one of the 26 states likely to experience a “trigger” ban on abortion, potentionally criminalizing it entirely. Half these states passed “trigger bans” after the 1973 Roe decision, but Arizona’s abortion ban dates back to pre-statehood days and comes with prison penalties. Republican Governor Doug Ducey has repeatedly claimed all abortion would not become illegal in the state post-Roe but the 1901 law has never been repealed. Instead Ducey claims the law would reflect the newly-passed SB1164, which outlaws abortion after 15 weeks, including in cases of rape and incest. The 1901 and 2022 laws simultaneously remaining on the books will inevitably lead to further debate if Roe is struck down. Nancy Barto, the state senator who sponsored the 15-week ban, disagrees with Ducey’s interpretation and considers her own bill nullified if Roe is overturned, returning it to the 1901 ban.
Currently in the Grand Canyon State, an abortion can still be obtained at 23 weeks 6 days, meaning a 15-week limitation or a sweeping ban would roll back abortion healthcare no matter what. Arizona lawmakers have already put numerous restrictions on abortion rights including banning the use of telemedicine for abortion medication and limiting how insurance plans and Medicaid can cover an abortion. Patients are already inconvenienced and forced to receive an ultrasound and state-mandated, medically unnecessary “counseling” that then requires a 24-hour waiting period before the procedure. If abortion was completely banned in the state, thousands of patients could be forced to carry their unwanted pregnancy to term. Over 13,000 people received abortion treatment in Arizona in 2020.
Despite the heat wave, over a thousand abortion rights activists began flooding in around the Phoenix State Capitol the day following the SCOTUS draft leak. A march was organized by Radical Women Phoenix for the late afternoon but protesters began packing the Capitol lawn hours ahead of time.
“MAKE CONGRESS FEAR THEIR INACTION,” one sign read.
“We will NEVER stop having abortions,” read another.
When the March to Defend Roe began, the large crowd wrapped around the entire Capitol building. As the first wave of protesters made their way back to the Capitol lawn, a small group of counter-protesters arrived. Campaign staffers for Trump-endorsed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake waved anti-choice signs and handed out her campaign merchandise (which was later found stuffed in the trash). One of the Lake staffers in the crowd was Matthew Martinez, who recently attempted to disguise himself as a student at Arizona State University to infiltrate organizer meetings for anti-sexual assault protests.
Others embedded in the group of anti-choice protesters included a local bigot, Ethan Schmidt, who films himself harassing people in medical masks, LGBTQ-friendly spaces, and attending fascist Proud Boy rallies. Schmidt was banned earlier this year from the nearby State House building for throwing up a Nazi salute at House staffers and calling House minority leader Reginald Bolding, who is Black, a “slave” in a “slave mask.” Another was Nick Fuentes loyalist and vocal antisemite, Kyle Clifton, who was wearing his blue “America First” hat. Both Schmidt and Clifton already have a history of crashing pro-choice events in Arizona.
Once arriving, the counter-protesters immediately began bullhorning anti-choice messaging and harassing activists. Schmidt met up with the front of the march and purposefully ran himself into protesters walking by.
“You guys are a bunch of libtard females wanting to kill their babies,” Schmidt shouted.
“Christ wins” he repeatedly bullhorned, while throwing up a Nazi salute to passing marchers.
“Fuck your God,” a protester responded to Schmidt.
As the night went on, the small anti-choice crowd escalated the violence. Antisemitic rants about “freemasonry” were reported from the group. One armed anti-choicer sporting an InfoWars-branded “Baby Lives Matter” shirt, Michael Merritt Graham, was arrested after punching a pro-choice activist in the face. Schmidt was detained in the incident but was quickly released without charges. However, Graham’s bloodied victim was also arrested and charged with disorderly conduct before a judge found no probable cause for the arrest and dropped the charges.
Days following the rally, Lake sent a campaign email characterizing the March for Roe protesters as “demonic,” and called for prayer for her team’s future planned encounters. On Telegram, Clifton has been attempting to gather personal information on demonstrators he filmed. With police brutality and the presence of Proud Boys and groypers being already reported at abortion rights rallies across the country, it’s certain these tactics will get worse. The far and religious right have long fought to roll back reproductive rights. The repeal of Roe will inevitably energize the most fervent of the anti-choice base.
“Based. Keep up the pressure. Do not let them have their abortion rally or their pride rallys[sic] in your cities,” Clifton wrote on Instagram in response to a Pride Festival in Oregon being forced to cancel due to violent threats from the far-right.
Male supremacist influencers quickly praised the draft leak’s announcement. Charlie Kirk’s producer, Connor Clegg, posted a meme of SCOTUS Justice Brett Kavanaugh reading “say goodbye to your abortions, whores.” Within the same hour, Kari Lake cheered “Life Wins (prayer emoji)” then shared an endorsement from New Jersey gym owner Ian Smith, who once killed a teenager in a DUI crash. Groyper-friendly state senator Wendy Rogers, who openly fantasizes about executing her political enemies and “jokes” about trans people being murdered, also celebrated the news.
“I love that we are going to save babies, but I also love the liberal tears,” Rogers tweeted before calling for the leaker to be arrested and given the “traitor treatment.”
Unfortunately, Arizona will likely see more bills targeting civil and reproductive rights introduced in the next legislative session, with Republicans expected to keep a simple majority. One bill introduced this year, HB2811, sought to ban the sale of abortion medication in the state. It narrowly failed but will likely make a return next session, along with a wave of legislation attacking bodily autonomy. On the same day Gov. Ducey signed SB1164, two bills discriminating against trans youth were also made into law.
Senate candidate Blake Masters sees the fall of Roe as a chance to go after Griswold vs Connecticut, which he boasts about on his campaign website. Griswold was a similar landmark decision for reproductive rights and banned the criminalization of contraceptives. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott considers it as an opportunity to challenge Supreme Court rulings that protect immigrant rights, including their right to a public education. Abbott also expressed an interest in having Arizona’s SB1070, the infamously controversial “show me your papers” law revisited.
Further restrictions will put more strain on local abortion funds, who already provide care for the state’s most underserved communities. Abortion restrictions like the telemedicine ban already force patients in rural communities to drive far distances to the city providers. Arizona is the most “at-risk” state if abortion is eliminated entirely, as patients would be forced to drive 247 miles on average to recieve abortion healthcare. The current average distance is 17 miles. With Arizona already having some of the worst maternal mortality rates and high rates of child poverty in the country, the so-called “pro-life” Supreme Court will have blood on their hands.
Organizations that raise funds to financially relieve patients seeking abortion and other family planning care in Arizona include the Tucson Abortion Support Collective, Abortion Fund of Arizona, and Indigenous Women Rising.