BREAKING NEWS

Rallies planned across Arizona following Supreme Court abortion draft opinion leak

Perry Vandell
Arizona Republic

Hundred of protesters carried signs with messages such as “Bans off my body” and “Abortion Is Health Care,” as they marched down 17th Avenue to rally to support their right to abortion.

The rallies took place across the state after a leaked draft majority opinion from the Supreme Court appeared to show the court overturning Roe v. Wade.

Emily Stites, one of the protesters, said it is imperative that women continue to have access to safe abortions. Stites said those against abortion can oppose the practice but doing so doesn’t give them license to impose their beliefs on others.

“They need to step out of people’s lives and they need to understand that their life is one of many,” Stites said. “Just because they had one certain upbringing does not exclude all other upbringings.”

The rally in Phoenix began at 6:30 p.m., and was announced by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, which bills itself as the advocacy arm of Planned Parenthood with another group called Radical Women, a socialist feminist multiracial group, according to Twitter

Abbie Brown, another protester, echoed Stites' sentiments and said abortion can be a crucial medical procedure that saves lives. Brown said banning abortion would negatively impact many — especially the poor and communities of color.

"There are an infinite number of cases where abortion is a necessary thing that can save a woman's life," Brown said. 

Brown said easy access to abortion doesn't make the procedure itself a routine life event, but rather gives people a choice when faced with an unexpected pregnancy.

A handful of counterprotesters showed up with signs equating abortion to murder, but were largely drowned out by the protesters.

Several groups, including the Tucson's Women's March, also met in front of Evo A. DeConcini U.S. Courthouse in Tucson on Tuesday to support abortion rights.

Bianca Van Deusen said she came to the Phoenix protest because she had grown concerned about new anti-abortion measures being passed in Arizona and other states such as Texas. 

Having grown up in a conservative Arizona community, Van Deusen said she felt like others saw an unexpected pregnancy as a punishment for women who had unprotected sex and that the solution for those who couldn't be a parent was always adoption.

Van Deusen said she herself grew up in foster care and said it wasn't a perfect system that rendered abortion unnecessary. 

"I don't know where people think there's just this magical place where babies go to be adopted without any consequences or without potentially ending up in the foster-care system for the rest of their life," Van Deusen said. "And unfortunately there's just no real social safety net or resources for these kids that they think should just be born into the world because a woman had sex and deserves to be punished."

Two men who are believed to have taken part in the protests were arrested Tuesday night, according to Bart Graves, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety. Graves said Jace Robert Denis, 20, was booked for disorderly conduct and Matthew Merritt Graham, 23, was booked for disorderly conduct and assault.

Details of what led to their arrests haven't been released. 

What you need to know: A guide to Supreme Court votes and opinions

Leaked opinion and potential impact in Arizona

Politico obtained and published a copy of the draft, which shows Justice Samuel Alito disavowing the landmark 1973 decision that cemented federal protection of abortion rights and the subsequent 1992 decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which maintained the right.

Abortion case: Court verifies authenticity of leaked opinion but says decision not final

“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start," the draft states. "Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division."

The Supreme Court verified the draft's authenticity on Tuesday but noted the decision wasn't final. 

Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill in March banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy under nearly every circumstance. 

Republican lawmakers passed the bill through the state Legislature without any support among Democrats, who raised concerns the prohibition does not include any exemptions for victims of rape or incest, along with other objections.

The new law provides no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Doctors who perform the procedure after 15 weeks could face a Class 6 felony, the lowest level of felony crime in Arizona, and have their medical licenses suspended or revoked. Women who obtain an abortion would be immune from prosecution.

Roe v. Wade: Court abortion leak could rock Arizona races up and down ballot

Reach the reporter Perry Vandell at 602-444-2474 or perry.vandell@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @PerryVandell.

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