Arizona Supreme Court Upholds Archaic Abortion Law

On Tuesday, April 9, 2024, Arizona’s State Supreme Court upheld an 1864 abortion law that criminalizes abortions and imposes felony-time sentences on providers who perform them or assist women in obtaining them. Notably, the law does not provide exceptions for cases of rape and incest, but permits abortions solely to save a woman’s life. However, the court’s decision stipulates that the law will be enforced “prospectively.”

In a 4-2 majority opinion, the court declared, “Physicians are now on notice that all abortions, except those necessary to save a woman’s life, are illegal,” overturning a previous appellate court decision based on a 15-week gestational period interpretation. The court argued that since there are no state or federal prohibitions against the ban, it should be allowed to stand, following the precedent set by the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. In 2022, the appellate court ruled in favor of medically trained and certified doctors performing legal abortions, while non-physicians were subject to penalties under the 1864 ban. However, the court’s loose definition of safety continues to jeopardize women’s health.

The 1864 ban predates Arizona’s statehood and reflects an era when women lacked rights during the Civil War. Arizona’s Democratic Attorney General, Kris Mayes, denounced the ruling as a “stain on our state,” affirming that women and doctors will not be prosecuted under the ban. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood Arizona, the largest abortion provider, will continue to offer abortion care until the law takes effect in 45 days.

Arizona’s situation mirrors recent developments in Florida, where the Supreme Court has banned abortions and is set to enforce a six-week ban soon. Arizona, grappling with fluctuating abortion rights, remains a battleground state for the upcoming November elections, with abortion rights garnering significant attention and support, evidenced by 500,000 signatures on related ballots.

The ongoing neglect of women’s protection, rights, and safety underscores the urgency for action. As reproductive rights and health dominate discussions leading up to the election, activists are called upon to advocate fiercely. It’s time to fight for meaningful change.

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