Arizona Abortion Law Ruling: A pre-statehood legislation in Arizona that almost entirely criminalized abortion was stopped from being enforced by an appeals court on Friday. Thus, at least for the time being, abortions can once again be performed in the state.
Planned Parenthood successfully had a three-judge panel of the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that the order blocking enforcement of the older statute should not have been lifted. Judge Peter J. Eckerstrom said in a brief order that Planned Parenthood and its Arizona branch had demonstrated they were likely to succeed in an appeal of a judge in Tucson’s decision to allow enforcement of the old statute.
After the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade in 1973 that women have a constitutional right to an abortion, Planned Parenthood contended that the lower court judge should have considered the many pieces of legislation passed to restrict abortions after the original injunction was placed in place.
Among these regulations is a new one that went into effect last month, prohibiting abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. U.S. Supreme Court rulings establishing a 24-week limit based on viability standards have since been reversed.
Like the lawyers for Planned Parenthood, Eckerstrom argued that “Arizona courts have an obligation to endeavor to harmonize all of this state’s applicable statutes.”
After the Supreme Court reversed Roe in June, Arizona’s Republican attorney general, Mark Brnovich, sought the injunction preventing the implementation of the pre-statehood abortion law from being withdrawn. It came out in the wake of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
Judge Kellie Johnson of the Pima Court Superior Court agreed on September 23 and vacated the injunction a week ago.
Alexis McGill Johnson, CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, stated, “Today’s ruling gives a badly needed sense of security for both our patients and providers.” “It’s a relief that we can now start helping our patients. Arizonans will again have the freedom to make their own choices regarding their bodies, health care, and futures, while the fight is far from done.”
An official statement from Brnovich’s office quoted Brittni Thomason as saying, “Our office realizes this is an emotive subject, and we will carefully analyze the court’s order before choosing the next move.”
Arizona’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, has stated the 15-week bill he signed in March takes priority. But his legal team didn’t try to argue that point in court.
Brnovich and confident Republican lawmakers have argued on the importance of the pre-statehood statute, even though the new 15-week prohibition expressly states that it does not remove the pre-statehood provision. If the mother’s life is in danger, an exemption is included, but rape and incest are not.
After the Supreme Court decision, providers across the state halted abortions, but many had resumed the procedures by midsummer. They did so because a federal judge had previously rejected a different “personhood” statute that they believed would open the door to criminal proceedings against medical professionals. Following Johnson’s ruling, they once again stopped.
Pro-choice groups like Planned Parenthood have complained for years that Arizona’s conflicting abortion regulations make things more difficult for doctors and their clients.
The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood, saying the organization had shown it was likely to succeed in its claim that the trial court erred in its analysis of the attorney general’s request to lift the 50-year-old injunction by failing to take into account the later laws passed by the Legislature to regulate abortion.
Eckerstrom suggested in his letter that a delay be granted, “having in mind the pressing need for legal clarification in the execution of our criminal legislation by healthcare practitioners, prosecuting authorities, and the general public. It’s worth noting that throughout the first case, both sides asked the court for this clarity.”
The court of appeals has scheduled a hearing for next week to decide whether or not to fast-track the broad appeal filed by Planned Parenthood. Even though Johnson has already rejected similar claims, last week, a doctor in Phoenix and an abortion rights group filed to block the previous statute.
Johnson stated in her decision that there may be legal problems involving potential conflicts of law, but that they were not before her. Since Johnson removed the injunction on the previous statute, several Arizona clinics have sent patients to physicians in California and New Mexico.
Doctors and others who provide abortion assistance face a maximum prison term of two to five years under the pre-statehood law. Last year, lawmakers struck down a provision of the bill that would have made it a crime for women to have abortions.
Those who qualify for abortion pills at one Phoenix clinic can now have them sent to the Arizona-California border. Because of this, the journey required to obtain abortion pills, compelling up to 12 weeks gestation, is reduced from two days to one.
Arizona, along with 13 other states, has outlawed abortions at any point in the pregnancy since Roe was reversed. According to data gathered by the Arizona Department of Health Services, roughly 13,000 women in Arizona choose to have an abortion each year.
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Emma is a Master of Science candidate at the California Institute of Technology. Since approximately four years ago, she has been a freelance writer, producing content for newspapers, magazines, blogs, and the internet