The Shock Arizona Ruling Shows Why Trump’s Abortion ‘Middle Ground’ Is No Compromise

When state after state restricts abortion access ― sometimes via unelected judges ― access is endangered for millions of people in neighboring states, too.

After months of trying to forecast where Donald Trump would land on abortion, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee claimed in separate statements this week that he would not sign a national abortion ban and that he believes abortion rights should be left to the states.

“Many states will be different, many will have a different number of weeks or some will have more conservative than others and that’s what they will be,” Trump said in a Monday statement. “At the end of the day, this is all about the will of the people.” In our current dystopian post-Roe landscape, Trump hopes “leave it to the states” will get him the most votes ― a supposed middle ground or compromise on abortion.

Trump’s supposed “will of the people” simply isn’t reflected in court rulings from hyper-conservative judges. Arizona’s Supreme Court decision this week greenlighting an 1864 near-total abortion ban, and the Florida Supreme Court doing the same for a six-week ban, is not the will of the people. It’s the will of a handful of conservative judges cherry picked by anti-choice Republicans. (The same goes for the IVF decision in Alabama last month.)

Still, let’s say we took Trump at his word. Even that is a feat; he continues to align himself with some of the most extreme anti-abortion thought leaders, some of whom will likely be a part of his administration if reelected. There’s also the issue of the Comstock Act, which Trump’s allies have said they intend to enforce to create a backdoor abortion ban.

Even if a national abortion ban doesn’t come to pass, the increasing number of states banning abortion procedures puts considerable strain on neighboring states that don’t, in turn endangering access nationwide.

The last two weeks have shown exactly what it looks like to leave abortion rights to the states: Vast regions of the country have turned into abortion care deserts that span hundreds of miles. And the access that’s left in pro-choice states isn’t boundless. Abortion clinics and funds in critical safe haven states like Virginia, Colorado and New York are struggling; wait times for appointments are often weeks long and many funds are simply running out of money.

For every state that puts a ban in place, there are at least three other surrounding ones where systems are further overrun and access gets worse. Leaving it up to the states is an unsustainable option that still impacts the entire country.

Dr. Jill Gibson, the chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Arizona, told reporters on Tuesday that access in neighboring states like California will be critical if the near-total ban goes into effect. The law greenlit by the Arizona Supreme Court precedes Arizona’s statehood ― “dating back to hoop skirts,” as Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern wrote ― and was enacted before women had the right to vote.

Planned Parenthood Arizona was already sending patients out of state before the ruling this week because of the state’s 15-week abortion ban, but staff now need to ramp up their patient navigation program significantly and quickly. “Those networks that we’ve already worked really hard to create are now going to be the lifeline for the patients in Arizona who need to get out of state to get abortion services,” Gibson said.

“Leaving abortion rights to the states is not sustainable and, unlike what Trump would have you believe, it’s not a middle ground.”

The Arizona restriction bans nearly all abortions with no exceptions for rape or incest, and carries a felony punishment of two to five years in prison for providers. The near-total ban will go into effect 45 days after the state Supreme Court issues its formal ruling, which normally takes a few weeks. The ban means anyone who needs abortion care (and likely miscarriage care) will need to travel out of state.

Unlike Arizona, Florida is surrounded by states that already have abortion bans in place. And despite Florida having its own 15-week abortion ban, it was a critical access point for care in the Southeast. The Sunshine State had the largest increase in abortions post-Dobbs in any state in the country.

The six-week ban, which takes effect May 1, will be “the largest single loss of care” since Roe v. Wade fell in 2022, said Lauren Brenzel, the campaign director for Floridians Protecting Freedom, the group behind the state’s pro-choice ballot initiative.

The closest place to get care after six weeks for Floridians and many others in the Southeast is North Carolina, which has its own 12-week abortion ban. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said during a press call last week that he knows the little abortion access left in his state won’t be enough to make up for the loss in Florida. North Carolina was another haven for care in the region until its legislature passed a veto-proof 12-week abortion ban last year. Even with the current “heroic effort” of North Carolina’s abortion providers, Cooper said, “It will not be enough to help all the women left out in the cold by this decision.”

Jade Hurley, the communications manager at DC Abortion Fund (DCAF) in Virginia, is terrified that the “second migration” of abortion seekers from Florida will finally drain the last of abortion funds’ finances. It’s more expensive to travel for abortion care because of the added costs of logistics and lodging as well as the procedure, since people are often pushed further into pregnancy. Funds in Virginia have already been struggling, but now the entire system could collapse since Florida will no longer be an option.

“No other way to say it ― DCAF and funds everywhere were already in the red before this news out of Florida,” Hurley told HuffPost.

“We expect the forced migration, starting May 1, to overwhelm clinics in North Carolina, Virginia and D.C. ― in turn, overwhelming us abortion funds,” she said. “We just don’t have the dollars, appointments or capacity to serve everyone who will need us this summer.”

Eloisa Lopez, the executive director of the Abortion Fund of Arizona, one of only two funds in the state, told HuffPost that abortion funds are the backbone of post-Roe care, and they desperately need donations, especially those where abortion is still accessible.

“We recognize that, yes, it is a burden for receiving states, which are far fewer than those who are hostile [to abortion],” Lopez said. “Those receiving states really carry that weight for the country.”

An abortion ban in one state has a ripple effect in the surrounding ones. Fewer and fewer physicians will provide abortion care due to the risk, and there aren’t enough providers left in blue states to make up for the access lost in red states. Abortion funds are on the brink of collapse, and without logistical and financial support the most marginalized will be forced to carry dangerous or unwanted pregnancies to term.

While providers and advocates are working hard to ensure access across the country, leaving abortion rights to the states is not sustainable and, unlike what Trump would have you believe, it’s not a middle ground.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misstated when the Arizona ban will take effect.

Popular in the Community


What's Hot