Meet The Men Behind Arizona's 1864 Abortion Ban

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes did a deep dive into recent reporting on the child rapist who helped bring us the revived 1864 abortion ban in Arizona, and shredded Justice Samual Alito for the “kind of history and tradition” that he and his fellow conservatives “have brought back to the 21st century.”

I don’t think anything can top MSNBC’s Chris Hayes’ total evisceration of slimy Sammy Alito and his fellow conservatives on the Supreme Court for starting this with the Dobbs ruling and the fact that what happened in Arizona is exactly what their vision is for the country.

Here’s the transcript in full from the segment above.

HAYES: It has been almost two years since the Supreme Court erased the constitutional right to an abortion. That decision, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, turned back the clock nearly half a century. And in fact, history itself was the reason the majority of the court gave for taking away American women’s reproductive freedom.

In the majority opinion, conservative Justice Samuel Alito writes, “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion. No such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

That provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution. But any such right must be deeply rooted in this nation’s history and tradition. The right to abortion does not fall within this category until the latter part of the 20th century. Such a right was entirely unknown in American law.”

Basically, according to Samuel Alito and the conservative majority and the logic of Dobbs, the whole holding, abortion and other rights cannot be a constitutional right because it is not found deep in the tradition and history of our nation.

Now, a lot of people responded to that decision by saying that basing our 21st century constitutional rights and the implications of the plain text and the jurisprudence that follows from it on what we were or were not doing hundreds of years ago is itself a completely ludicrous methodology, dangerous reactionary.

And of course, the reality is that the history and tradition of this country is patriarchy and white supremacy. And so the methodology adopted by that man, Samuel Alito, on the right with the conservative Supreme Court effectively ruled is that we are going to let the past dictate the present in this really binding way, specifically the white men who held power in the distant past, the men who made up the tradition of our history.

That is exactly what we are seeing in Arizona. It’s not an accident. This isn’t some weird fluke. It’s the logic of Dobbs at play, where that state’s Supreme Court just revived a near total abortion ban from 1864, from when Lincoln was president.

This is the code of laws adopted by the very first Arizona Territorial Legislature 160 years ago. Yes, territorial, because Arizona would not become a state for nearly 50 more years. It’s named for judge and principal author William Thompson Howe, the man you see there on the left.

The Howell code formalized the laws governing all the territory, population less than 10 ,000. Now, the code established crimes such as excusable homicide by misadventure, which could include, “a man at work with an axe and the head flies off and kills a bystander, or where a parent is moderately correcting his child and happens to occasion death.”

It contains multiple sections relating to duels. For example, setting a punishment of one to three years imprisonment for “any person who shall willingly and knowingly carry or deliver any written challenge or shall be present at the fighting of any duel.”

The Howell code also defines the crime of rape as quote, listen closely here, “a person of the age 14 years and upward who shall have carnal knowledge of any female child under the age of 10 years, either with or without her consent.”

So 10 was the cut off for his consent. And it also addresses abortion, ruling it is a crime to “administer or cause to be administered or taken any medicinal substances or use or cause to be used any instruments, whatever, with the intention to procure the miscarriage of any woman then being with child.”

That part is now going to be the law of the land in Arizona once again. Now, of course, this was not only William Thompson Howells doing. These laws with the project, the entire Arizona territorial government, including crucially the man running the state legislature, the territory legislature, the Speaker of the House, a man by the name of William Claude Jones.

A 1990 biographical article describes Jones as, and I quote here, “a prevaricator, a poet, a politician, a pursuer of nubile females, a member of a royal privy council, a speaker of Spanish, a proponent of Southern secession, a partisan of the Union, and probably the man who named Arizona.”

But really, I think the most salient way to describe him is as a serial child rapist. In the 1850s, Jones won a federal appointment as United States attorney for New Mexico territory, then encompassing what is now Arizona, leaving behind his then wife and two children in Missouri.

A few years later, Jones’ wife obtained a divorce and he married a very young Mexican girl. New Mexico’s delegate in Washington declared the bride was 12 years old and that Jones had, quote, abducted her.

The delegate asked the President of the United States, President Buchanan, to fire Jones for the moral lapse. That would be the kidnapping and raping of a 12-year-old. Jones had anticipated the charge and wrote in his resignation.

That “marriage” with the 12-year-old he abducted lasted just two years. Then in 1964, he made his way to Arizona and he was elected Speaker of the House in the brand new Arizona territorial legislature, the one where he shepherded this passage of this law.

Three days after the end of the legislative session, where the Howell code was approved, a big day for Jones. He married a woman named Caroline E. Setphens after a whirlwind courtship. Woman of course being a little questionable. She was 15 years old. He was approximately 50.

Less than six months later, he left his child bride, pictured here with her second husband, who never saw or heard from him again. Jones promptly left for California, followed by Hawaii. In February 1868 he won election to the kingdom of Hawaii’s lower house. 14-year-old girl, named MaeMae, reportedly a princess from a noble family, was pregnant with his child during the time of the election.

They went onto have several children before MaeMae died at age 28. Jones married his fifth and final wife just four months later named Mary, age unknown. He filed for divorce in 1883, charging Mary with numerous flagrant acts of adultery. He died within six months.

William Claude Jones spent his life wielding his power over women, and over girls, and their bodies with complete tyrannical domination. He faced no consequences, except he once lost a job for the 12- year-old he abducted and raped.

And that is exactly the kind of history and tradition that Samuel Alito and the Supreme Court have brought back to the 21st century. It is not an accident or a historical gotcha. It is the very logic of this court. It is the point of the decision in Dobbs. It is the point of the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling this week. In the year 2024 William Claude Jones, once again gets to control the bodies of women and girls in the state of Arizona.

The voters in Arizona, and the rest of the country for that matter, are not going to forget this in November, and that they can thank Trump as well for allowing this to happen, and the Arizona Supreme Court treating women like chattel.

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