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Díaz and Boas: Will the Arizona Supreme Court abortion ruling be a wake-up call for Republicans?

Arizona is still reverberating from the state Supreme Court’s bombshell decision last week reinstating a near-total abortion ban in our state, ruling that the 15-week ban lawmakers passed just a few years ago did not take precedence over a ban that doesn’t include exceptions for rape and incest that was made law before Arizona was even a state.

The decision has major implications for health care in Arizona, and now the political implications are becoming more clear. Conventional wisdom says this ruling will hurt Republicans in our state, as public opinion rests solidly on the side of some abortion rights.

But Phil Boas thinks all of this might be useful for the GOP. Boas is a columnist for the Arizona Republic. He joined The Show along with Elvia Díaz, editorial page editor, this morning to talk more about it.

Full interview

LAUREN GILGER: So Phil, let’s begin with you on this and your argument here about the GOP. You wrote that you think this decision may have finally awakened this party to its own defects. Tell us why.

PHIL BOAS: Well, what an amazing thing that happened last week. Because the Supreme Court ruled — and I believe they ruled on the law, not their own personal feelings. And when they had, it left Arizona with this 1864 horse-and-buggy law in which the political ads write themselves. It was a catastrophe for the Republicans.

And they could see it. They could see the meltdown happening. And so you had incredible things happening, like you had Donald Trump saying that the conservative Arizona Supreme Court had gone too far. And then Trump actually implores Katie Hobbs, the Democratic governor of Arizona, to work with the Legislature to repeal this 1864 law, this pro-life law.

And then you have Kari Lake lobbying conservative lawmakers to support repeal and replace it with a 15-week ban. And you have Arizona pro-life lawmakers, who are also just working feverishly for repeal, vowing to get it done by Wednesday.

And I think what you’re seeing, with not just the Arizona Republican Party but the national Republican Party, is a recognition that the Republican Party is now a pro-choice party. It’s moving in that direction and quickly.

GILGER: So do you think that’s going to be a good thing for them going forward?

BOAS: Well, I think it is a politically necessary thing. I think they’re coming to that decision. And that pains me as somebody whose sensibilities are pro-life. But I understand it. A lot of Republicans misunderstood Roe v. Wade as this great victory, not understanding that Roe v. Wade had 50 years to set in place. American attitudes and sensibilities about abortion, that it ought to be legal and safe.

GILGER: Elvia, what’s your take here, specifically when it comes to how this may impact and change the Republican Party?

ELVIA DÍAZ: Well, I wouldn’t call it amazing and incredible. I do agree that it is a political reality that the Republican Party is facing. And so they are shocked and to what they did themselves. I mean, they fought really hard for many, many years and a very coordinated effort get rid of Roe v. Wade, thinking that that was going to be it.

But Phil is right in the sense that that unleashed so many other things. And the most important one of the top of my list is the realization that women’s rights are not rights at all, and that Roe v. Wade was not really cemented anywhere except precedent, legal precedent, which means it can be undone at any time at the whim of whomever is in power.

And so it is a huge realization for women specifically that there are no rights, that they are not equal to men, and that the only way to do it is enshrining those rights into the Constitution.

So when Phil was writing that this 1864 law may not matter in practicality if it is repealed the Arizona Legislature, I disagree. Because again, it is a raw reality that unless those rights are enshrined in the Arizona Constitution, then someone else is going to come in and overturn it, just like they did with Roe v. Wade, which everyone fought for more than 50 years was sacrosanct, and it wasn’t.

GILGER: So, Phil, what would you say the GOP should do here in terms of abortion? I mean, you said your own proclivities are pro-life, but politically this is resulting in a shift in the GOP. Should they do what Donald Trump has said here last week in just saying, “We won’t support a federal ban, this should go to the states”? Is that the right tack?

BOAS: Yeah, I agree that is the right tack. And that’s what should have happened originally back in the 1970s. You know, I believe that Roe was made up out of whole cloth, and I’m not alone on that. I could line up the liberal scholars and legal practitioners, beginning with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who believed that Roe was bad law.

But you cannot deny political reality. And the Republicans are realizing that today. They can go ahead and they can support full prohibitions on abortion, and they will lose elections. And then Democrats will decide all abortion law, and there will be no regulation at all.

It’s interesting. Look at how many Republicans have embraced the 15-week ban. Fifteen-week ban, OK, covers all of the first trimester when 93% of abortions are done.

So the larger question of abortion, should it be legal? Republicans are conceding that because who supports it? Ron DeSantis, a MAGA figure, Florida governor. Donald Trump, the leader of MAGA. And then you have Arizona’s former governor, part of the Republican establishment, Doug Ducey, also put in place a 15-week ban.

So that is a concession right there on the part of both schools and major schools in the Republican Party that abortion should be mostly legal.

DÍAZ: I don’t think it is, Lauren. I don’t think it is a profound shift in principle for Republicans. It’s it’s a political reality that they’re just looking at that short-term, and by that I mean November. So they’re only looking at their political survival between that now and November and nothing else. So they’re scrambling right now at the national level, just like Phil said and at the state level as well.

So no, I don’t think it is a shift. And also keep in mind that what is in place in several states has been done legislatively, for the most part. And so it is still the Republican Party controlling what should be allowed and what women should be allowed to do with their bodies.
You know, the state of Arizona, it was a state Legislature who imposed the 15-week ban, and then and again in so many other states. So, no, I do not think it is a shift in principle. It’s merely political survival here.

BOAS: Well, Elvia doesn’t want to accept victory.

DÍAZ: It’s a short term victory as well, for sure. But long term, no. It is not, and Roe v. Wade taught us that.

GILGER: Let me ask you lastly, Elvia, then the same question I asked Phil but for the Democratic Party. Where do you think the line should be for them if they’re taking this as a winning issue, accepting victory, as Phil says? And going forward, what should abortion regulation look like under a Democratic Party?

DÍAZ: There is already a ballot initiative proposal that no doubt is going to get on the Arizona ballot. Ultimately, it should be up to women. And I think that’s what we have learned and what we’re discussed now as women is that for generations it has been practically the men telling women what to do. So it it is time for women to decide for themselves.

And I do think that the Supreme Court, some of the justices anyway, referred to it as women have political power now. So I think that’s what is next. And it’s not about a political party, It’s about just women's rights and taking matters into their own hands.

GILGER: Phil, final actual last question then. Do you think that this pivot that the Republican Party is making right now will work in time for November? Do you anticipate a bloodbath?

BOAS: I don’t think abortion will be as critical an issue as some people think, because there are so many larger issues at hand. But it is a significant issue, and it’s going to hurt Republicans. And I don’t think this will be enough to change that trajectory.

I think it’s going to cost Republicans more elections. It already has. And some of the harbinger elections we’ve seen in other states like Ohio and Virginia, places like that, the voters are already signaling. And Republicans are beginning to wake up.

KJZZ's The Show transcripts are created on deadline. This text may not be in its final form. The authoritative record of KJZZ's programming is the audio record. 

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.