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Kari Lake says Arizona's 19th-century abortion ban is 'out of line' after praising it in 2022

It's "less about banning abortion and more about saving babies," she says now.

April 11, 2024, 6:55 PM

After an Arizona Supreme Court ruling this week in support of a 19th-century ban on abortions roiled the politics of the battleground state in the middle of the 2024 election cycle, Republican Senate candidate Kari Lake -- who has regularly called herself "100% pro-life" -- released a lengthy new statement about where she stands on abortion access.

In a video on Thursday, Lake, a former TV news anchor, said the near-total abortion ban in the state that will soon go into effect, which dates to 1864 and only makes exceptions to save the life of the pregnant woman, is not what the people of her state want and that she would not support a federal ban on abortion if elected to the Senate.

"This total ban on abortion that the Arizona Supreme Court has ruled on is out of line with where the people of this state are," Lake said to open her video, in which she speaks over soft orchestra music, interwoven with images that include women and pregnancy tests.

"The issue is less about banning abortion and more about saving babies," she went on to say, later adding: "We as American people don't agree on everything all the time. But if you look at where the population is on this, a full ban on abortion is not where the people are."

That is a shift in rhetoric from earlier in Lake's political career -- something Democratic rival Ruben Gallego, whom Lake attacks as a leftist, plans to spotlight at an event on Friday.

Referring to the 19th-century law, Lake said in a 2022 interview with a conservative podcast host that "I'm incredibly thrilled that we are going to have a great law that's already on the books. I believe it's ARS 13-3603."

An aide to her maintained on social media this week that Lake was referring to a more recent 15-week ban.

PHOTO: Protesters take part in a small rally led by Women's March Tucson after Arizona's Supreme Court revived a law dating to 1864 that bans abortion in virtually all instances, in Tucson, Arizona, on April 9, 2024.
Protesters take part in a small rally led by Women's March Tucson after Arizona's Supreme Court revived a law dating to 1864 that bans abortion in virtually all instances, in Tucson, Arizona, on April 9, 2024.
Rebecca Noble/Reuters

When campaigning in 2022 for governor, Lake repeatedly avoided "answer[ing] a bunch of hypotheticals about what kind of legislation I would or wouldn't sign," she said at the time.

"I favor a law that will save as many babies as possible and help as many women as possible," she said at a forum in October 2022.

She also regularly says she's "100% pro-life" and supports "saving as many babies as possible."

She repeatedly said in the video on Thursday that she agrees with former President Donald Trump on the issue, that abortion access should now be determined by the states but that "we must" have exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the mother.

However, Lake did not say in her new statement if she supports a particular threshold for abortion bans -- at a certain number of weeks into pregnancy -- or how the three categories of exceptions should be implemented.

She also did not directly mention a potential ballot initiative that may decide the issue in her state if it comes up for a vote in November.

Asked last month how she would vote on that initiative if it made it on the ballot, Lake dismissed the question to simply say, "I'm pro-life."

PHOTO: In this Sept. 28, 2023, file photo, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs speaks at the Tempe Center for the Arts, in Tempe, Arizona.
In this Sept. 28, 2023, file photo, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs speaks at the Tempe Center for the Arts, in Tempe, Arizona.
Rebecca Noble/Getty Images, FILE

"Right now we're in that part where we're deciding the issue and, yes, it's painful," Lake said in Thursday's video. "Yes, it's difficult, yes there are emotions that are so strong, and people are angry and people are sad and furious. This is the difficult part. I didn't get into politics because I thought it was going to be easy. I'm okay with the difficult part."

"As your senator, I will oppose federal funding for abortion -- and federal banning. I'm not going to Washington, D.C., to impose federal restrictions on something that's already been sent back to the states," she said, arguing that "abortion extremists" want to use this issue "to bring down our country."

"This issue has the ability to bring down our country or help save our country, and I want to help save our country," she added.

The Arizona Supreme Court's decision on Tuesday to uphold the ban, which predates Arizona's statehood, has drawn differing reactions from state Republicans and abortion opponents.

The president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, Marjorie Dannenfelser, who opposes abortion, called the court decision an "enormous victory for unborn children and their mothers."

"Reinstating Arizona's pro-life law will protect more than 11,000 babies annually … The compassion of the pro-life movement won in court today," she said.

Former Gov. Doug Ducey posted on social media that the decision was not his "preferred" outcome and urged elected leaders to find "a policy that is workable and reflective of our electorate." However, Ducey also appointed the four justices who supported the court's majority in the opinion.

"I signed the 15-week law as Governor because it is thoughtful policy, and an approach to this very sensitive issue that Arizonans can actually agree on," Ducey wrote on X. "The ruling today is not the outcome I would have preferred, and I call on our elected leaders to heed the will of the people and address this issue with a policy that is workable and reflective of our electorate."

PHOTO: In this Feb. 29, 2024, file photo, Arizona Republican U.S. Senate candidate and far-right election denier Kari Lake appears at a news conference, in Phoenix, Arizona.
In this Feb. 29, 2024, file photo, Arizona Republican U.S. Senate candidate and far-right election denier Kari Lake appears at a news conference, in Phoenix, Arizona.
Rebecca Noble/Getty Images, FILE

The ban was put on hold for 14 days. Anyone found guilty of violating it, once it's in effect, will face two to five years in state prison.

"Patients are absolutely, completely confused about what is legal," Dr. Jill Gibson told ABC News' Rachel Scott at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Arizona on Wednesday.

"Patients are already saying that they're looking for means of getting abortions through other means," Gibson said.

The state's Democratic governor, Katie Hobbs, has called on state lawmakers to repeal the ban -- while also pushing back on Trump for suggesting she and other state officials must resolve the controversy.

"I'm kind of tired of cleaning up Donald Trump's messes," Hobbs said on "GMA3" on Thursday. "But, look, this is just political opportunism from these politicians who this is they are getting exactly what they wanted. Donald Trump bragged about getting rid of Roe v. Wade. And this is the consequence of that."

A Democratic-led repeal effort on Wednesday was blocked in the Arizona Legislature, with Republican leaders saying they needed more time to hear from the public. Lawmakers return next week.

"The Court's 47-page ruling was released just yesterday," Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma said in a statement to ABC News, in part, "and we as an elected body are going to take the time needed to listen to our constituents and carefully consider appropriate actions, rather than rush legislation on a topic of this magnitude without a larger discussion."

ABC News' Alyssa Acquavella, Jeffrey Cook and Oren Oppenheim contributed to this report.