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Arizona Supreme Court upholds 1864 law that bans most abortions

This ruling makes nearly all abortions in the state illegal, with the exception of cases to save the mother's life.
Arizona Supreme Court upholds 1864 law that bans most abortions
Posted at 12:25 PM, Apr 09, 2024

The Arizona Supreme Court upheld a Civil War-era abortion ban on Tuesday.

"To date, our legislature has never affirmatively created a right to, or independently authorized, elective abortion," the court's opinion stated.

This 4-2 ruling makes nearly all abortions in the state illegal, with the exception of cases in which the procedure is needed to save the mother's life. 

It also wipes out a ban on abortion after 15 weeks, which was made law in 2022, prior to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade.

After the constitutional right to an abortion was overturned later that year, Arizona still had a law on the books from 1864 that banned nearly all abortions, including in cases of rape or incest.

Republicans attempted to revive the law but faced opposition from abortion-rights advocates, including Planned Parenthood Arizona, which was a plaintiff in this case.

A lower court previously ruled that medical providers could perform abortions up to 15 weeks of pregnancy under the new law. But that ruling was overturned with the state Supreme Court's decision on Tuesday.

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs spoke to reporters just minutes after the ruling was made public, imploring the Republican legislature to repeal the 1864 law. She then took to social media to double down on her message and reiterate the significance of the 2023 executive order she issued, safeguarding individuals engaged in legal abortion from prosecution.

"Like millions of women across Arizona, I am reeling from the Supreme Court's callous decision to uphold the 1864 total abortion ban. This archaic law, which was written by men 48 years before Arizona even became a state, threatens the lives of countless women and strips us of control over our bodies. Today seems like a dark day," said Hobbs. "But I assure Arizona women that the fight for our reproductive freedoms is far from over. I want to make it clear that my executive order protecting women and doctors from prosecution by extremist county attorneys still stands. We are taking immediate action to uphold your reproductive freedoms."

SEE MORE: Trump says abortion rights should be left to states

Whether the legislature acts or not, the issue of abortion could end up on the November ballot. 

Arizona for Abortion Access said it has gathered 500,000 signatures, which is beyond the number needed to get the measure on the ballot in November.

The ballot measure would ask voters to decide on a constitutional amendment on abortion. If passed, the amendment would allow access until the point of fetal viability.

Abortion is also a major topic in the presidential race between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, said on Monday that decisions about abortions should be left up to the states. 

President Biden has been a vocal supporter of abortion rights. On Tuesday, he decried the Arizona Supreme Court's decision, saying, "This ruling is a result of the extreme agenda of Republican elected officials who are committed to ripping away women’s freedom."

Following the ruling, Vice President Kamala Harris, who is visiting Arizona on Friday to continue her advocacy for reproductive rights, placed the blame fully on Trump, saying he would sign off on a national abortion ban if he were to be elected again.

“The alarm is sounding for every woman in America: if he has the opportunity, Donald Trump would sign off on a national abortion ban. He has called for punishing women and doctors. If he wins, he and his allies have plans to ban abortion and restrict access to birth control, with or without Congress. It’s terrifying, but we are not powerless," Harris said in a statement.

This law will not be enforced for the next 14 days to allow the plaintiffs a chance to explore other legal challenges, the judges wrote. 

SEE MORE: Pence slams Trump's stance on abortion as 'a slap in the face'


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