Apr 12, 2024 - News

How Arizona's court ruling will impact abortion access

Illustration of a column wrapped in snakes from a caduceus.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Even if lawmakers succeed in repealing the state's pre-Roe abortion ban, Arizonans' access to the procedure is all but certain to be curtailed, for at least some part of this year.

The big picture: Barring other possible litigation, abortions will remain available for about 60 days after the Arizona Supreme Court's landmark ruling, which reinstated the ban Tuesday.

State of play: Democratic lawmakers and a small handful of Republicans are advocating to repeal the ban, which dates back to 1864.

  • An attempt to do so fell flat the day after the ruling, but supporters vowed to keep trying and will get another shot next Wednesday.
  • Rep. Matt Gress (R-Phoenix), the lone House Republican to publicly support repeal, told NBC News' "Meet the Press NOW" on Thursday he's "very confident" it will pass next week.
  • The state attorney general, meanwhile, is evaluating further legal options to challenge the ban.

Yes, but: Unless they can muster a two-thirds supermajority in each chamber, which is highly unlikely, the repeal won't go into effect until 90 days after the legislative session ends.

  • That date isn't fixed.
  • The legislature's only deadline is passing a budget by June 30, and last year lawmakers stayed in session into July.

The intrigue: Gov. Katie Hobbs could shorten the gap in abortion care by calling a special session on the subject at any time.

  • That would allow a theoretical repeal to go into effect earlier — 90 days after a special session ends.

Hobbs told reporters Thursday there's no point in calling a special session if there aren't enough Republican votes to pass a bill.

  • But, she said, "if I'm confident it will be productive and we can get this done, then yes, we'll do that."

Between the lines: Hobbs issued an executive order last year to consolidate prosecutorial authority over abortion-related crimes solely under Attorney General Kris Mayes, a fellow Democrat who has pledged not to prosecute anyone under the ban.

  • It's unclear whether any county attorneys will challenge Hobbs' authority to do that.

Reality check: The abortion providers who have spoken publicly say they won't provide abortions that are against the law, regardless of whether anyone plans to prosecute.

  • Dr. Atsuko Koyama of Camelback Family Planning said during a press conference Monday that she'll follow the law.
  • Planned Parenthood Arizona has said it will continue providing abortions until the roughly 60-day enforcement pause ends but hasn't said what it'll do after that.
  • Requests to multiple other Arizona abortion providers were not answered by deadline.

Hobbs said Thursday she is "not going to tell Planned Parenthood they should continue to provide services based on our executive order. That is solely a decision up to them."

Flashback: Arizona providers temporarily halted abortions after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe in 2022, and again later in the year after a Maricopa County judge briefly allowed the 1864 ban to go into effect.

  • Arizona saw an average of 1,340 abortions reported monthly through the first half of 2022, but only 222 in July of that year, the first full month after Roe was overturned, according to a report from the Arizona Department of Health Services.
  • The state averaged just 580 monthly for the second half of the year.

Axios' Jessica Boehm contributed reporting.


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