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Progress Arizona aims to unseat 2 Arizona Supreme Court justices over near-total abortion ban

A progressive nonprofit is working to unseat two Arizona Supreme Court justices who voted to uphold a near-total abortion ban in state law.

Justices Kathryn Hackett King and Clint Bolick will be up for retention on the November ballot. On April 9, they were in the majority of the 4-2 opinion that upheld an 1864 law criminalizing most abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest. 

A group called Progress Arizona is spearheading the campaign launched Monday morning by asking voters to pledge to unseat the justices. 

A spokesperson for the Supreme Court said the justices declined to comment.

Both were appointed to the bench by former Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who expanded the court from five to seven justices in 2016.  If voters do unseat Hackett King and Bolick this fall, Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs will be tasked with appointing their replacements. 

Portrait of man next to portrait of woman
Arizona Supreme Court Justices Clint Bolick and Kathryn Hackett King.

The Progress AZ campaign is led by Abigail Jackson. She said Monday that the effort is getting a lot of traction. Jackson didn’t argue that the vote was unconstitutional, but said it is not in line with what Arizona voters want. 

Justices were asked to consider a 15-week abortion ban passed by the Legislature in 2022, but that law specifically states that it doesn’t take precedence over the 1864 law

“The Legislature does not intend this act to … repeal, by implication or otherwise, section 13-3603, Arizona 19 Revised Statutes, or any other applicable state law regulating or restricting abortion,” the 2022 law states.

It’s likely that a citizen-led initiative will get a measure to legalize most abortions again on the ballot in November, but Jackson said that’s not enough. 

“I think that it makes plenty of sense that Arizona voters would both want to support the initiative which we expect them to and to take action to hold these justices accountable,” Jackson said.

The other two judges in the majority opinion were James Beene and John R. Lopez IV. They’re not up for retention this year, but Jackson didn’t rule out going after them when they are in a few years.

Arizona voters have never before unseated a Supreme Court Justice.

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Camryn Sanchez is a field correspondent at KJZZ covering everything to do with state politics.