Pima County Superior Court judge reinstates Arizona’s pre-statehood abortion ban

Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 3:22 PM MST|Updated: Sep. 23, 2022 at 3:54 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (3TV/CBS 5/AP) - A Pima County judge ruled on Friday to lift a 1973 court injunction against an Arizona abortion ban, which reinstates the pre-statehood law. The ruling will keep the territorial-area law banning abortion in place, with the exception of the life of the mother, but not in cases of rape or incest. It would mandate two to five years in prison for abortion providers. Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson said in her ruling that since “the legal basis,” which was Roe v. Wade, for the injunction has been overruled, “it must vacate the judgement in its entirety.” An appeal of the ruling is likely.

Planned Parenthood Arizona said after the ruling came out that it would pause abortion services, “to protect our providers and patients.” “Make no mistake: this fight is far from over and Planned Parenthood Arizona and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona will never back down – not now, not ever,” Brittany Fonteno, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said in a statement. Also disappointed about the ruling is Pima County Attorney Laura Conover. “We were hoping for a different result, and we will be looking at available legal remedies. Having a near-complete ban on abortion procedures puts people at risk,” she said on Twitter.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich tweeted shortly after the announcement in support of the judge’s decision. “We applaud the court for upholding the will of the legislature and providing clarity and uniformity on this important issue. I have and will continue to protect the most vulnerable Arizonans,” Brnovich tweeted.

Democrat gubernatorial nominee Katie Hobbs also released a statement expressing her disappointment in the ruling. “I am outraged and devastated by today’s decision by the Pima County Superior Court to allow a territorial ban on abortion to take effect. There’s no doubt in my mind that this draconian 1901 law will have dire consequences on the health and well-being of Arizona women and their families,” a portion of the statement read. Hobbs went on to say if elected governor, she will “block any legislation that compromises the right to choose.” Her opponent, Republican Kari Lake, hasn’t commented on the ruling.

The decision from Johnson came more than a month after she heard arguments on Brnovich’s request to lift the injunction. It had been in place since shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in the Roe v. Wade case, which held that women had a constitutional right to abortion. The high court overturned Roe on June 24 and said states can regulate abortion as they wish. Assistant Attorney General Beau Roysden argued that after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the injunction no longer applies, so it should be lifted. “Those laws were intended to regulate and limit abortion within the power the legislature had. They were never intended ... to statutorily create the right to abortion,” Roysden said.

However, according to an Associated Press report, an attorney for Planned Parenthood Sarah MacDougall previously argued that if the judge lifts the injunction, the reach of the 100+-year-old law should be limited; This is so the law doesn’t conflict with other laws. Planned Parenthood said that many laws restricting and regulating abortion would be meaningless if the court allowed the old law to be enforced without restrictions.

Just this year, the Legislature passed a law signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey that criminalizes performing abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. It was set to go into effect on Saturday, but with Friday’s ruling, the pre-statehood abortion ban supersedes it. Ducey contended that the new law he signed takes precedence over the pre-statehood law.

The 15-week law would have only affected about 5% of the abortions performed in the state, according to statistics in the previous three yearly reports compiled by the Arizona Department of Health Services. The state averaged just under 13,000 abortions per year during that time.

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