GOP Lawmakers To Defend Abortion Ban After Attorney General Refuses

March 14, 2023

By Corinne Murdock |

Two GOP lawmakers will defend the state’s ban on abortions due to fetal genetic abnormalities, since Attorney General Kris Mayes refuses.

House Speaker Ben Toma (R-LD27) and Senate President Warren Petersen (R-LD14) were granted permission to defend the law by U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Rayes last Thursday. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Scottsdale-based Christian legal advocacy group, is representing Toma and Petersen in the case, Isaacson v. Mayes.

Rayes determined that Toma and Petersen were qualified to intervene because they had significant protectable interest in the case. The pair requested to intervene in February, following Mayes informing the court that she no longer wished to represent the state in this case. Mayes told multiple news outlets just days into her administration that she wouldn’t defend or uphold the state’s existing abortion laws.

“Arizona has made a policy decision to vest in its legislative leaders an interest in defending the constitutionality of the legislature’s enactments,” stated Rayes. “If [Toma and Petersen] are not permitted to intervene, the challenged laws will go undefended, which ‘risk[s] turning a deaf ear to the voices the State has deemed crucial to understanding the full range of its interests.’”

Throughout her campaign and in her first few months as attorney general, Mayes characterized the contested abortion ban as “unconstitutional” and in violation of Arizona’s privacy clause, promised to not prosecute abortionists in violation of law, and vowed to use her authority to prevent county attorneys from enforcing abortion restrictions and bans.

“Intervention is even more appropriate here, where the Attorney General’s interests are directly contrary to those of the proposed intervenor,” stated ADF’s petition. 

As AZ Free News reported last week, Mayes revealed that her office has even been encouraging pharmacies to give out abortion pills.

A.R.S. § 12-1841 allows legislative leaders to intervene in cases challenging the constitutionality of state statutes. Last year, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) upheld the legality of state laws like Arizona’s. 

Abortionists Paul Isaacson and Eric Ruess; the National Council of Jewish Women, Arizona section; Arizona National Organization for Women; and Arizona Medical Association sued the state over the abortion ban in August 2021. The ban, codified through SB1457, prevents a woman from terminating her pregnancy due to the presence of any fetal genetic abnormalities, like Down Syndrome.

SB1457 argued that the state had three compelling interests in outlawing selective abortions: protecting the disability community from discriminatory abortions; protecting citizens from coercive medical practices encouraging selective abortions based on genetic abnormalities; and protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession by preventing doctors from becoming witting participants in genetic-abnormality-selective abortion. 


Last July, the court ruled that the law’s recognition of the personhood of unborn children was unconstitutionally vague and in conflict with other state laws.

The state legislature is working on passing additional abortion regulations and restrictions. SB1600 from State Sen. Janae Shamp (R-LD29) provides protections to infants born alive from a botched abortion. According to the Arizona Department of Health’s (AZDHS) latest data, at least nine babies were born alive following a botched abortion procedure in 2021. The Senate passed Shamp’s bill along party lines last month.

SB1146 from State Sen. Jake Hoffman (R-LD15) would require the State Board of Investment to identify companies that donate to or invest in organizations that promote, facilitate, or advocate for abortions for minors or for the inclusion of or referral of K-12 students to sexually explicit material. The Senate passed the bill earlier this month, also along party lines.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

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