Arizona Supreme Court revives 19th century law that bans nearly all abortions in that state

The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday revived a 19th century law that prohibits almost all abortions in that state, a devastating decision that adds them to the growing list of states in which the procedure is not allowed.

Tuesday's ruling revives an 1864 law that criminalizes abortion in Arizona and makes it a crime punished with sentences of between two and five years in prison for those who practice it or help someone obtain it.

The law — which was codified again in 1901, and again in 1913 after Arizona became a state — includes an exception, when it comes to saving the life of the surrogate.

That Civil War-era law — enacted a half-century before Arizona even gained statehood — was never repealed.

That allowed an appeals court to rule last year that the law could remain in effect as long as it was “harmonized” with the 2022 law, causing widespread confusion in Arizona over the exact timing of the pregnancy. abortion prohibited.

The state Supreme Court's decision, which could mean the closure of abortion clinics in Arizona, overturned the ruling of a lower court that declared that the ban on abortion up to 15 weeks, in March 2022, would take the place of the law of 1864.

The Supreme Court put your decision on hold for 14 daysreturning the case to a lower court so that “additional constitutional challenges,” which have not yet been clarified, can be evaluated there.

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, a Democrat, said moments after the ruling that she would not apply the law.

“Let me be completely clear: as long as I am attorney general, “No woman or doctor will be prosecuted under this draconian law in this state.”Mayes added in a statement, adding that the decision was “inconceivable” and “an affront to freedom.”

Democratic leaders, including the president, Joe Biden, also attacked the ruling.

“Millions of people in Arizona will soon live under an even more extreme and dangerous abortion ban, which fails to protect women even when their health is in danger or in tragic cases of rape or incest,” Biden said in a statement.

The mandatary described the ruling as “cruel” and “a result of the extreme agenda of Republican elected officials who are committed to taking away women's freedom” and promised to “continue fighting to protect reproductive rights.”

The decision, in the hands of the voters

In a 4-2 ruling, the court majority concluded that the ban up to 15 weeks “does not create a right to abortion, nor does it provide independent legal authority for an abortion that repeals or restricts” the War-era ban. Civil, “but is based entirely on the existence of a federal constitutional right to abortion since it was denied” by the 2022 Dobbs case, which overturned Roe v. Wade.

The decision also shocked the reproductive rights community in Arizona and the rest of the country.

Angela Florez, president of Planned Parenthood Arizona, one of the state's largest remaining abortion providers, declared that her group would now only be able to provide abortion services up to the 15th week of pregnancy, and only “for a period of time.” Very brief”.

However, the issue could soon be in the hands of voters.

Abortion rights groups in the state are likely to achieve their goal of placing on the November ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that would create a “fundamental right” to receive abortion care up to fetal viability—i.e. until the 24th week of pregnancy.

If voters approve the measure, it would overturn the 1864 ban that remains in effect in the state. It would prohibit the state from restricting abortion care in situations where the health or life of the pregnant person is in danger after the point of viability, according to the health care professional treating them.

This ballot initiative is one of at least 11 nationwide that seek to put the issue directly in the hands of voters, a move that could significantly increase turnout for Democratic candidates who emphasize the issue.