Kari Lake walks back ‘rare and legal’ abortion comment

October 5, 2022 GMT
FILE - Kari Lake, Republican candidate for Arizona governor, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Aug. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)
FILE - Kari Lake, Republican candidate for Arizona governor, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Aug. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)
FILE - Kari Lake, Republican candidate for Arizona governor, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Aug. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)
FILE - Kari Lake, Republican candidate for Arizona governor, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Aug. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)
FILE - Kari Lake, Republican candidate for Arizona governor, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Aug. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

PHOENIX (AP) — A spokesman for Kari Lake said Tuesday the Republican candidate for Arizona governor didn’t mean to suggest abortion should be legal, saying she’s not calling for changes to abortion laws weeks after a judge ruled that prosecutors can enforce a near-total ban on terminating pregnancies.

In her most expansive comments on abortion since the ruling last month, Lake told a Phoenix talk radio host that it should be “rare and legal” before saying twice that it should be “rare but safe.” Ross Trumble, a spokesman for Lake, said she meant to say only “rare but safe.”

“You know, it would be really wonderful if abortion was rare and legal — the way they said it before, remember? Rare but safe, rare but safe, I think is what they said,” Lake told conservative host Mike Broomhead on KTAR radio. “It’d be really wonderful if that’s how it turned out. But that’s not what they want, Mike. They don’t want rare but safe.”

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Lake appeared to be referring to former President Bill Clinton’s famous line that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.”

Arizona doctors stopped performing abortions late last month after a judge in Tucson ruled that prosecutors can enforce a law dating to 1864 that bans abortion unless it’s necessary to save a woman’s life. Arizona also has a law passed this year that bans abortion after 15 weeks, creating speculation about what’s allowed.

Trumble said either the total ban or the 15-week law would fit Lake’s standard of abortion being “rare but safe.”

“‘Rare but safe’ would apply to whatever the current law is interpreted to mean,” Trumble said.

He said Lake has no plans to ask the Legislature to change abortion laws and declined to say whether she would sign legislation expanding access, saying he wouldn’t address “hypotheticals.”

Asked in the radio interview whether she would support allowing abortion in cases of rape and incest — both are disallowed under the total abortion ban and the 15-week law — Lake demurred.

“That’s a very small percentage of abortions,” she said. She said her Democratic opponent, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, has the more extreme position, accusing her of supporting abortion without restrictions. Hobbs says decisions about abortions should be made by women and their doctors without government interference.

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Lake has spoken positively of Arizona’s total ban on abortion, which she called “a great law that’s already on the books.” She has called abortion “the ultimate sin,” said abortion pills should be illegal and that she would sign a bill banning abortion as soon as fetal cardiac activity can be detected, usually around six weeks gestational age and before many women know they’re pregnant.

Democrats have seized on the ruling, which revived the issue ahead of next month’s midterm elections. Democratic lawmakers sent a letter on Tuesday asking Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to call a special session of the Legislature to repeal the 1864 abortion ban.