A judge in Arizona’s Superior Court ruled on Friday that a law passed in 1901 outlawing almost all abortions in the state can be put into effect. This decision will likely be appealed, inspiring more women to vote in the state’s hotly contested US Senate and governor’s races.
A court order that had prevented the implementation of Arizona’s pre-statehood prohibition on abortion after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 was lifted by Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson, allowing the state’s nearly comprehensive ban on abortion to go into effect.
Johnson wrote in the decision, which was made public on Friday, “The court concludes that the legal basis for the judgment filed in 1973 has now been overridden, and it must vacate the judgment in its entirety.”
The case has pushed the debate over Arizona’s abortion laws into the spotlight. Arizona is a swing state that President Joe Biden won by less than 11,000 votes. In the wake of the US Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in late June, a heated national debate on this contentious issue has divided Republicans in Arizona. Many states led by the GOP have passed more restrictive laws and risk alienating moderate voters.
The judge’s decision effectively bans all abortions in Arizona, except those required to preserve the mother’s life. The choice was made the day before Arizona enacted a 15-week abortion ban. Arizona legislature passed that bill before the US Supreme Court ruling.
Indiana In Indianapolis, Indiana, the United States, on August 5, 2022, Senator Susan Glick, the author of Senate Bill 1, debates Senator Greg Taylor just before the vote to approve Senate Bill 1, which had already been approved by the House earlier in the day and would have made Indiana the first state legislature to restrict abortions.
The 1901 ordinance, passed before Arizona became a state and can be traced back to as early as 1864, was not overridden by the new legislation, according to conservative Arizona lawmakers who put wording in the bill barring abortion beyond 15 weeks. The pre-statehood statute provides a prison sentence of two to five years for abortion providers. It prohibits abortion in all circumstances except when “it is required to save (the mother’s) life.”
Abortion rights organizations fought the attorney general’s decision to let the 1901 abortion ban go into effect, arguing that if both laws were to take effect, it would be highly confusing to both abortion doctors and women seeking care. However, the judge stated in her decision that she was not making any recommendations regarding how the disagreement between Arizona’s abortion regulations would be resolved.
While there might be legal issues the parties want to settle regarding Arizona’s abortion laws, Johnson stated in the ruling that this Court was not the appropriate place to make those decisions. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs expressed her shock and devastation at the judgment, which drew immediate criticism from several Democratic organizations that support abortion rights.
Hobbs said in a statement, “no question in my mind that this draconian 1901 law will have devastating implications for the health and well-being of Arizona women and their families.” With no exceptions for rape or incest, this callous bill effectively outlaws abortion in Arizona and jeopardizes women’s fundamental right to make their own health care decisions.
Even worse, this bill calls for jail time for those who provide abortions. Before giving patients the frequently required, life-saving care, medical practitioners will be compelled to pause and consult an attorney. Karine Jean-Pierre, a communications secretary for the White House, called the Arizona court’s decision “catastrophic, dangerous, and intolerable.”
She added in a statement, “this regressive decision typifies the troubling trend across the country of Republican politicians dead-set on stripping women of their rights, especially through (South Carolina Sen. Lindsey) Graham’s proposed national abortion ban.”
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After Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court in late June, Arizona GOP Attorney General Mark Brnovich took the lead in legal efforts to try to reinstate the state’s pre-statehood prohibition on abortion. Brnovich expressed his satisfaction with the ruling on Twitter:
“We commend the court for respecting the legislative branch’s intent and establishing clarity and uniformity on this crucial matter. He tweeted that I have protected Arizonans who are most at risk and will keep doing so.
The controversy over Arizona’s abortion regulations has complicated the state’s legal system for much of the summer. It has developed against the backdrop of a shifting national political climate ahead of the midterm elections in November.
The Supreme Court’s decision on abortion has energized female voters across the nation, which resulted in the unexpected victory for proponents of abortion rights in Kansas and better-than-expected performances for Democrats in special elections for the US House since the Dobbs case.
While historical trends and the country’s unfavorable attitude toward inflation had initially favored Republicans in their quest to take control of the US House and Senate this November, The important statewide elections now face fresh uncertainty due to the verdict. Republicans are attempting to defeat Democratic Sen.
Mark Kelly as he runs for a full six-year term because they only need to capture one additional seat to take control of the Senate. Additionally, Democrats are attempting to unseat Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who is serving out his term.
Hobbs has characterized Kari Lake, a GOP rival in the run for governor of Arizona, as an “extreme” proponent of abortion. In an August press conference, Lake declared that she would “uphold the laws on the books,” repeating her previous statements that she was against the practice.
But she didn’t say which legislation she was referring to. “Elect legislators who will amend the laws if the people don’t like the ones now in effect. Not God, but the governor is what I’m vying for. Thus, I am not permitted to draught laws, she explained. CNN has asked her campaign for more information about how she feels about the pre-statehood statute, but they have not yet responded.
Lake and Kelly’s Republican opponent Blake Masters, who is running for the Senate, has said that Kelly and the other Democrats have taken views that are excessively liberal in favor of abortion rights. After claiming the GOP nomination last month, Masters took the words “federal personhood law” and other conservative anti-abortion positions off his campaign website.
According to his campaign, Masters backs Graham’s call for a federal ban on abortion after 15 weeks, with exceptions for the mother’s life and in cases of rape or incest. But before the decision, his team did not respond to inquiries concerning Masters’ stance on the pre-statehood law and the legal battle to uphold it.
The judgment, according to Kelly, “would have a terrible impact on the freedom Arizona women have had for decades: to choose an abortion if they need one,” she said in a statement on Friday. Let’s be clear: Blake Masters’ goal is to outlaw abortions nationwide, including in Arizona, without making any exceptions for rape or incest.
I’ll never give up the struggle to get these rights back for women in Arizona. The court that handled the 1973 injunction, Pima County Superior Court, heard the Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s opposition to Brnovich’s action. The attorneys for the group had contended that the court was required to “harmonize all of the Arizona Legislature’s enactments as they are currently existing.”
The group maintained that the pre-statehood statute could “be enforceable in some respects” in the post-Dobbs period but that it shouldn’t apply to abortions by licensed doctors. Instead, the restriction should apply to anybody who seeks to provide abortion services without being a qualified doctor.
Planned Parenthood Arizona’s president and CEO, Brittany Fonteno, said in a statement that Friday’s decision “has the practical and horrible impact of setting Arizonans back nearly 150 years.” No antiquated legislation should restrict our right to self-determination and the way we live in the present.
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