Supporters hold signs as Kari Lake speaks at an Oct. 10, 2023, event launching her 2024 campaign for the U.S. Senate. Photo by Caitlin Sievers | Arizona Mirror
Kari Lake, who has been staunchly anti-abortion since she entered the political fray in 2021, says that pro-choice advocates only offer one choice — abortion — and that many women who undergo the procedure end up deeply regretting it.
But actual pro-choice advocates say that her assertions are far from true, and studies show that the vast majority of women still feel their abortions were the right decision five years later.
“Kari Lake continues to use her platform to spread disinformation and conspiracy theories, following the playbook of other anti-abortion politicians in Arizona,” Kelley Dupps, the senior director of public policy for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, told the Arizona Mirror in a statement. “For years, extremists in our state have tried to manipulate the truth about abortion and essential health care, but Arizonans won’t fall for these blatant lies.”
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Lake, a Republican who still hasn’t conceded the 2022 Arizona governor’s race that she lost to Democrat Katie Hobbs, announced her run for U.S. Senate on Oct. 10 at a rally in Scottsdale.
Lake describes herself as pro-woman and pro-life, but has been noncommittal on what sort of specific abortion policy she would back, if elected to the Senate. During the rally, Lake said that one of the most meaningful experiences of her life was being a mother.
“We need every woman that steps foot in an abortion clinic to know there are real options,” she said. “The left says they’re pro-choice. They’re not. They’re for one choice. And they don’t give the women any other choices.”
But pro-choice advocates like Amy Fitch-Heacock, executive board member and spokesperson for Arizonans for Reproductive Freedom, say that is absolutely false.
Advocates connect pregnant people to a multitude of services that they might need, including social services, help with food and housing, mental health care, prenatal care and other reproductive services, in addition to abortion, Fitch-Heacock told the Arizona Mirror.
“Pro-choice advocates are exactly that: Pro-choice,” she said. “We want people to have all the information they need to make the best reproductive healthcare decision for themselves without undue interference. It is categorically untrue and, frankly, dangerous to give even a moment’s worth of attention to anyone claiming otherwise.”
Kari Lake lies about abortion because she knows that her lies incite anger from a very small minority of the population, and she wants to turn anger into votes. Arizonans are too smart for that.
– Amy Fitch-Heacock, Arizonans for Reproductive Freedom
Arizonans for Reproductive Freedom is a grassroots coalition of pro-choice advocates that tried unsuccessfully to get abortion rights on the ballot in Arizona in 2022, following the Dobbs ruling that struck down Roe v. Wade.
The group now has its sights set on 2024.
Lake acknowledged that Republicans usually steer away from talk about abortion — because their views are generally more conservative on the issue than the country as a whole — but declared that she didn’t plan to stay quiet.
A 2022 Pew Research poll found that 61% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in most or all cases, while just 37% believe it should be illegal in all or most cases.
“I can’t imagine walking into an abortion clinic, thinking that I can’t afford a baby, so I’m going to take my baby’s life,” Lake said. “That’s happening today.”
She blamed President Joe Biden for sending money to Ukraine instead of to struggling mothers.
Lake added that the “Republican Party is going to put the money where their mouth is and save babies and help women,” but she didn’t elaborate on how much or what sorts of government programs she would advocate for providing to new mothers in need.
A Lake campaign spokesperson told the Mirror that she “supports paid family leave, baby bonuses, and tax credits to help women.”
“Republicans need to start putting their money where their mouth is,” Alex Nicoll said. “If we can fund endless wars and bailout corporations, we can help women and save babies.”
Study: 95% of women had no regrets 5 years after their abortion
Lake also said that she doesn’t believe any mother regrets having children, but that many women say that having an abortion caused them deep regret.
“I don’t know any mother who says, ‘I wish I wasn’t a mother,’” she said. “I challenge you to find one. They don’t exist, because it’s the greatest gift ever.
“Conversely, you ask any woman who’s walked into an abortion clinic and been only given that one option, and many times — many, many times — she’ll say it was the greatest regret of her life. And it is a regret that lives with her and gnaws at her for the rest of her life.”
But a 2020 study on abortion and how women felt post-procedure found the exact opposite. In fact, the researchers at University of California San Francisco’s Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health found that 95% of women still believed it was the right choice for them five years later.
The researchers used data from the Turnaway Study, a five-year undertaking that looked at feelings and outcomes for 1,000 women who sought abortions in 21 states.
Many of the women initially struggled with the decision of whether to go through with the procedure. Those women, as well as those who felt stigmatized, were more likely to experience anger or sadness shortly after obtaining an abortion — but for the vast majority, those feelings faded over time.
Throughout the study, relief was the most common emotion reported by the 667 women in the study who ended up getting an abortion. They were surveyed right after the procedure and then every six months for the next five years.
Pro-life critics of the study say that women who feel deep regret about the procedure would be less likely to respond to a survey detailing their feelings about having an abortion.
The Turnaway Study also found that women who are denied abortions often suffer financially, may have a hard time bonding with or even come to resent their child, and that their older children tend to struggle more developmentally. (Nearly three in five Arizona women who get an abortion already have at least one child.)
“I have spent an extraordinary amount of my time working with people who were denied abortion care,” Fitch-Heacock said. “The consequences are dire. People who are denied abortion care are more likely to be depressed, less likely to be active participants in our workforce, more likely to rely on public aid, they are more often victims of domestic abuse and they have worse overall health outcomes.”
Fitch-Heacock told the Mirror that her personal experience working with women who’ve had abortions aligns with the results of the study.
“The false messaging claiming that the majority of people regret having had an abortion is meant to cast doubt on a person’s innate ability to know what is best for themselves when it comes to family planning,” she said.
“In nearly 20 years of advocacy, I have never had a person regret their abortion. To the contrary, I have had numerous people call me years later to tell me about the positive effect that safe and legal abortion had on their lives.”
Lake on Tuesday reminded the crowd that she was the only mom in the race for U.S. Senate. Her primary election opponent is Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, and the winner of that contest will likely square off against Democratic U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego. Also likely to join the race is incumbent Democrat-turned-independent Kyrsten Sinema.
Lake said that, as a senator, she would make decisions with Arizona families and children in mind.
“The reality is that Kari Lake and politicians who use similar dangerous rhetoric about abortion know the truth: Abortion bans are overwhelmingly opposed by our electorate,” Fitch-Heacock said. “Abortion is safe. Abortion is health care.
“Kari Lake lies about abortion because she knows that her lies incite anger from a very small minority of the population, and she wants to turn anger into votes. Her lies won’t win her an election, though. Arizonans are too smart for that.”
***UPDATE: This story was updated to include a comment from a Lake spokesman that was sent shortly after the article was published.
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