Kari Lake Flip-Flops—Again!—on Civil War-Era Abortion Ban

Days after calling for state legislators to repeal Arizona's 1864 law, Lake called it "unfortunate" that the state's Democratic governor and attorney general aren't enforcing the ban.

Kari Lake Flip-Flops—Again!—on Civil War-Era Abortion Ban

Earlier this month, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the state can enforce a Civil War-era criminal abortion ban established in 1864. And Republican Senate candidate and failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake has been flipping—or rather, flip-flopping—out ever since. After supporting the law in 2022, coming out against it when the ruling was announced, then supporting it, and then opposing it, Lake has, as of publication, chosen to stick with supporting. In a weekend interview with a local Idaho newspaper and picked up by NBC News on Tuesday, Lake called it “unfortunate” that Arizona’s Democratic governor and attorney general aren’t enforcing the ban to prosecute abortion providers.

“The Arizona Supreme Court said this is the law of Arizona. But unfortunately, the people running our state have said we’re not going to enforce it,” Lake said. She seems to be referring to Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) and Attorney General Kris Mayes (D), who have both come out against the law. Mayes said she would not enforce it as attorney general (though local prosecutors could absolutely enforce the ban in their jurisdictions).

Lake spoke to the Idaho newspaper while visiting as a keynote speaker for a local county Republican Party event, possibly choosing to support the 1864 law after facing criticism from local anti-abortion group, Idaho Chooses Life.

The abortion ban in question would criminalize and imprison anyone who provides abortion care except to save someone’s life, but the Court’s decision is expected to have significant electoral repercussions. While the Court ruled that the 1864 law could be enforced, they also ruled that a ballot measure could move forward. So Arizonans will get to vote on an abortion rights ballot measure this November, and we’ve seen how abortion-focused ballot measures—and abortion rights, in general—have mobilized voters in states across the country to the detriment of Republican candidates.

As bizarre as it is to watch Lake do a complete 180 from just a few days ago, I’d argue there’s at least some consistency in her refusal to make any sense or be vaguely coherent on this issue. In 2022, Lake called the 1864 ban “a great law.” Then, on April 9, she said, “I oppose today’s ruling, and I am calling on Katie Hobbs and the State Legislature to come up with an immediate common sense solution that Arizonans can support.” (To be clear, even when Lake publicly stated her opposition to the archaic abortion law, all of this is only happening because of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which Lake supported and continues to support.)

Then, last week, Lake managed to make herself sound even more dumb. “Everyone’s fighting about a law that’s not even going to be enforced here in Arizona. Even if we have a restrictive law here, you can go three hours that way, three hours that way, and you’re going to be able to have an abortion,” she said at a campaign event. In other words, Lake’s pitch was that the abortion law is actually irrelevant because it’s not currently being enforced, and voters can simply travel out-of-state for abortion care as if it’s free and easy (spoiler alert: it is absolutely not!). As I wrote last week, it’s all word vomit to try to appease the militant anti-abortion movement leaders who have already called her out, while also trying to dodge the electoral repercussions of standing with an incredibly unpopular policy position.

Arizona Democrats have been trying to pass legislation to repeal the 19th-century abortion law, while Republican legislators have consistently shut down these efforts. The clock is ticking to take action on the ban, which can begin to be enforced on June 8. In California, the closest state for many Arizonans who may seek abortion care, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has proposed legislation to expedite the licenses of Arizona abortion providers to allow them to treat their patients in California.

Lake’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on where she—currently—stands on the 1864 law. We’ll update this if we hear back, and we’ll probably have to update it next week and the week after, too.

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