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Kari Lake says 'unfortunately' Arizona isn't enforcing 1864 abortion ban, flipping again

The Senate candidate supported the 19th-century ban in 2022, came out against it this month, and now appears to be backing it again in a new interview.
Kari Lake at CPAC
U.S. Senate candidate Kari Lake, a Republican, at CPAC in National Harbor, Md., in 2023.Alex Wong / Getty Images file

Arizona GOP Senate candidate Kari Lake said in an interview with an Idaho media outlet that "unfortunately," her state's near-total abortion ban dating from 1864 is not being enforced, flipping back on comments she made against the law earlier this month, when she called state legislators asking them to repeal it.

In an interview with the Idaho Dispatch on Saturday, Lake described the recent court decision upholding the 1864 law: “The Arizona Supreme Court said this is the law of Arizona. But unfortunately, the people running our state have said we’re not going to enforce it,” Lake said, expressing disappointment in steps taken by Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs and Attorney General Kris Mayes, both Democrats, to block prosecutions under the ban. 

“We don’t have that law, as much as many of us wish we did,” Lake added. 

Lake’s campaign did not immediately respond to questions about her comments in the Idaho Dispatch interview.

Lake was in Idaho as the keynote speaker for a local county Republican Party dinner. Her comments came in response to criticism from a group that opposes abortion rights, Idaho Chooses Life.

Lake’s latest comments are very different from how she’s been speaking about the abortion law, which bans abortion after conception with no exceptions for rape or incest, since the state Supreme Court’s ruling. 

“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,” said Lake in a video posted to X on April 11th.

“We know that some women are economically in a horrible situation, they might be in an abusive relationship, they might be the victim of rape,” Lake went on in the video explaining her opposition to the 1864 ban. “I agree with President Trump, we must have exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of a mother,” Lake added, exceptions lacking in the 1864 ban.

Those comments also represented a change of tune from Lake on the ban. In 2022, while she was running for governor of Arizona, Lake called the law a “great law.” Her likely Democratic opponent for retiring Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s seat, Rep. Ruben Gallego, seized on those comments in an advertisement last week

“I’m going to go by what she has said for the last three years,” Gallego said when asked whether he believed Lake's recent announcement opposing the 1864 ban. “She really believes that there should be an abortion ban. She’s advocated for an abortion ban."

“She is in support of this territorial ban that’s essentially going to ban abortion and put doctors and nurses in jail," Gallego added.

Meanwhile, as the Idaho episode shows, Lake isn't just getting flack on abortion from Democrats. During a campaign stop at the University of Arizona on April 11, both proponents and opponents of abortion rights criticized Lake for what she's said about the Arizona law. 

“I’m not standing in the shoes of a woman who’s been beaten by her… pimp. I’m not standing in her shoes, and neither are you. Are you standing in the shoes of a woman who has been the victim of a brutal rape?” Lake said then, when confronted by an opponent of abortion who expressed disappointment in Lake's comments backing down her support for the ban. 

Back on the campaign trail in Scottsdale, Arizona, just a few days later, during a town hall that was supposed to be focused on housing, the moderator, a real estate agent named Jason Mitchell, asked Lake, “Can you explain your shift on abortion from Civil War law to now?” 

Mayes, the state attorney general in Arizona, is expected to face legal challenges should she block prosecutions under the abortion ban. The Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling makes abortion a felony punishable by two to five years in prison for anyone who performs one or helps a woman obtain one, and it could take effect as early as June 8, according to Mayes' office.