A judge ruled on Friday that Arizona can put into effect a nearly total abortion ban that has been blocked for almost 50 years. As a result, clinics statewide will have to stop performing the procedures in order to prevent the filing of criminal charges against physicians and other medical professionals.
The court overturned a long-standing injunction that had prevented Arizona’s almost universal abortion prohibition from being enforced. The injunction had been in place since before Arizona became a state. If the woman’s life is in danger, there is just one exception.
As a result of the decision, those in need of abortions will need to go to another state. The verdict is probably going to be appealed.
After hearing arguments on Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s motion to remove the injunction, Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson made her ruling more than a month after hearing the arguments. It had been in existence since soon after the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which determined that women had a constitutional right to an abortion.
Before Arizona was given statehood in 1912, the almost complete abortion restriction had already been put into place.
After the injunction was issued after the Roe ruling, prosecutions were suspended. However, the statute was repeatedly amended by the Legislature, most recently in 1977.
At a hearing on August 19, Assistant Attorney General Beau Roysden advised Johnson that because Roe had been overruled, the only justification for the injunction preventing the old law’s enforcement is no longer valid, and she should for it to be put into effect. That legislation imposes a two- to five-year jail sentence on anybody who conducts a surgical abortion or supplies medications for a medication abortion.
According to a lawyer representing Planned Parenthood and its Arizona branch, if the pre-statehood restriction were to be implemented, a number of more recent statutes governing abortion would become useless. She asked the court instead to lift the longstanding restriction on licenced physicians performing abortions and limit its application to unregistered providers.
The court agreed with Brnovich, ruling that the whole injunction must be withdrawn since it was only brought in 1973 as a result of the Roe decision.
According to the motion and record in front of the court, the court “finds an effort to reconcile fifty years of legislative action procedurally wrong,” Johnson stated. “While there may be legal issues the parties want to settle about the abortion laws in Arizona, such issues are not for this Court to consider today,” the statement reads.
On June 24, the Supreme Court reversed Roe and said that abortion may be regulated as the state sees fit.
In a statement, Brnovich said, “We congratulate the court for supporting the intent of the legislature and giving clarity and consistency on this vital matter. “I have protected Arizonans who are most at risk and will continue to do so.”
A doctor who oversees an abortion facility said she was shocked but not surprised by the decision.
The state’s leaders want abortion to be outlawed here, Dr. DeShawn Taylor stated, so this sort of supports what I’ve been saying for a long. Of course we want to keep the possibility of change alive in the back of our thoughts, but I have been mentally prepared for the absolute ban the whole time.
Since Roe was overruled, abortion providers have seen a roller-coaster of operations, first closing, then reopening, and now being forced to shut them down once again.
The judge, Johnson, said that Planned Parenthood was free to submit a fresh challenge. The odds of victory, however, are limited given Arizona’s strict abortion regulations and the fact that all seven of the Supreme Court’s judges were nominated by Republicans.
As governments and courts have taken action, what is permitted in each state has changed. Before Friday’s decision, 12 states with Republican governors outlawed abortion at any stage of pregnancy.
In another state, Wisconsin, clinics have ceased offering abortions due to legal disputes regarding the status of an 1849 prohibition. Florida and Utah have restrictions that take effect at 15 and 18 weeks of gestation, respectively, while Georgia prohibits abortions once foetal heart activity is identified.
The decision was made one day before to the implementation of a new Arizona legislation that forbids abortions beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The Republican-controlled Legislature approved the measure, which Republican Gov. Doug Ducey then signed into law in March, with the anticipation that the U.S. Supreme Court will relax restrictions on abortion. It was similar to a Mississippi statute that the high court was examining at the time, which reduced the prior threshold by nearly nine weeks.
Ducey has contended that the newly-signed statute supersedes the pre-statehood law, but he failed to send legal counsel to Johnson to make that case.
The outdated legislation was first passed by the 1st Arizona Territorial Legislature in 1864 as part of the “Howell Code,” a collection of statutes.