Arizona AG agrees not to enforce near-total abortion ban until 2023
Arizona's near total ban on abortions won't be enforced until at least 2023 after the state's attorney general reached an agreement with abortion rights groups, allowing for abortions to resume in the state Thursday, per Bloomberg Law.
Driving the news: Brittany Fonteno, who heads Planned Parenthood Arizona, said at a news conference that abortion services would restart at the group's clinics across the state following the agreement in response to an appeals court ruling earlier this month blocking the enforcement of a 158-year-old abortion ban
Context: The pre-statehood law prohibiting all abortions other than those necessary to save a mother's life was blocked under Roe v Wade.
- But after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe, a lower court last month granted Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich's request for it to be enforced again in the state — which also has a 15-week ban in the books.
What we're watching: The appeals court has requested that attorneys for both the Arizona attorney general's office and Planned Parenthood file their legal briefs in the appeal by Nov. 17.
- Health providers in Arizona have filed a separate lawsuit seeking to allow the law enabling abortions in the state until 15 weeks to remain.
State of play: Brnovich has now agreed with abortion rights groups that Arizona officials won't enforce the 1864 law "until at least 45 days after a final ruling in the original case," AP reports.
- A decision in the case is likely to be appealed in the Arizona Supreme Court, so a final decision is unlikely until well into next year, AP notes.
What they're saying: "We are still on a long an uncertain path to restoring the fundamental right to abortion in Arizona and making this essential healthcare truly accessible and equitable for all people, Fonteno said.
- "While abortion is currently legal in Arizona and we have resumed abortion care throughout the state, we know that this could very well be temporary."
Between the lines: There's been confusion in Arizona over which abortion law takes precedent.
- Brnovich maintains the two laws could coexist and allow for prosecutorial discretion, but he is leaving his position after unsuccessfully running for a U.S. Senate seat.
- Democratic groups are pouring millions into state legislative races including in Arizona, where they're aiming to flip one seat in the state Senate to break up Republican legislative control.
Zoom in: Democratic candidate Kris Mayes has said she won't prosecute abortion providers.
- Her Republican rival Abe Hamadeh has said the attorney general's job is to enforce laws that the legislature passed —currently the 15-week ban.
Zoom out: Arizona is a key swing state in the midterms as the pro-abortion rights Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) faces off against Republican challenger Blake Masters, who's said he'd support a 15-week ban.
- The Cook Political Report this week moved the U.S. Senate race into its "toss-up" category after last month rating it as "leans Democratic."
Worth noting: "Abortion" was the most-searched midterm topic on Google in Arizona in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling against Roe.
- Debate brewing in Arizona over whether women can be prosecuted for abortions
- SCOTUS abortion ruling drives voter registration for Arizona women
Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout and to correct that the agreement was with abortion rights groups, not Planned Parenthood.