Updated Apr 9, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Arizona Supreme Court ruling effectively bans abortion

A speaks at a lectern with a group of people on stairs behind him holding signs with anti abortion slogans.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jake Warner speaks in front of the Arizona Supreme Court on Dec. 12, 2023, after arguing in favor of Arizona's territorial-era ban on most abortions. Photo: Jeremy Duda/Axios

The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a near-total abortion ban, with exceptions only to save the mother's life.

Why it matters: The court ruled that the 1864 law supersedes the state's 2022 15-week ban. It reversed a prior decision by the Arizona Court of Appeals siding with the more recent law.

  • The 4-2 opinion sets up a high-stakes battle over a possible November ballot measure that would protect abortion in Arizona up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Between the lines: The justices, all of whom were appointed by Republican governors, specified the opinion would not be enforceable for 14 days.

  • But the state had already agreed not to enforce the ban for 45 days after a final court mandate, which will likely not come for at least two more weeks.
  • Planned Parenthood Arizona says it will continue offering abortions through the 45-day period, though no decision has been made how to proceed afterward.

Catch up quick: Arizona's pre-statehood-era law makes it a felony to perform or induce an abortion. That law had remained on the books but been enjoined following the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.

Reality check: The blanket abortion prohibition may only be temporary. Advocates are collecting signatures to refer an abortion rights measure to the November 2024 ballot.

  • The Arizona Abortion Access Act would amend the state constitution to permit elective abortions to the point of fetal viability, which is generally around 24 weeks of pregnancy.

What they're saying: "There is an initiative out there gathering signatures to codify abortion rights in our state, and I felt it would pass with overwhelming numbers," Democratic state Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton said at a press conference after the ruling.

  • "Now, I have no doubt."

What we're watching: Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs issued an executive order last year barring Arizona's county attorneys from prosecuting abortion-related crimes and centralizing that authority under the attorney general.

  • The order remains in place, and the state's Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes said the state and counties won't prosecute any doctors for violating the ban as long as she's in office.
  • Mayes added she'll explore whether her office can challenge the ruling.

Yes, but: Regardless of enforcement timelines, Atsuko Koyama, a doctor at Camelback Family Planning, said during a state Democratic Party press conference that she won't provide illegal abortions.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details.

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