A ban on abortion throughout the entirety of pregnancy with exceptions only for cases where the life of the pregnant person is in danger — something that could be difficult to determine under the threat of prosecution if the threat to health is later determined insufficient — was blocked Friday in Arizona.
The restrictions originate in 1864, although they were later updated. Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson recently allowed the enforcement of the ban, but the Arizona Court of Appeals has issued a temporary block of the ban as legal proceedings, including the appeals court later hearing further arguments, continue. There is an opportunity for a further appeal of the decision by the appeals court to the Arizona Supreme Court. The ban was never formally undone after the 1973 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade that established federal recognition of the right to an abortion. “Judge Peter J. Eckerstrom, writing for the three-member panel that issued the stay, said the lower court may have erred in resurrecting the Civil War-era law, because it conflicts with more recent laws that provide abortion seekers more leeway,” The Washington Post says. Arizona officials enacted a 15-week abortion ban — which allows those seeking abortions and providing the procedure with further opportunities than what this ban allows.
The 15-week abortion ban, meaning a ban that takes effect after 15 weeks of pregnancy with only rare exceptions, mirrors (in its timing) the Mississippi law that led to the Supreme Court’s undoing of Roe. Florida officials also imposed a 15-week abortion ban that remains in effect following the court undoing national legal protections for abortion, restricting millions from the procedure — although that state’s governor, Republican Ron DeSantis, already indicated an interest in further restrictions. In other states, including Texas and Ohio, Republican officials have imposed more recently originating stricter bans, including a Texas law passed before Roe was overturned that makes providing an abortion throughout the entirety of pregnancy, with rare exceptions, a felony punishable by up to life in prison and large fines, although questions about the enforceability of the outlined punishments emerged.
“Arizona courts have a responsibility to attempt to harmonize all of this state’s relevant statutes,” Eckerstrom said in Arizona, discussing the argument from Planned Parenthood Arizona that the lower-level judge was in error for focusing her analysis on the constitutional viability of the over century-old abortion ban in light of the Supreme Court overturning Roe. “The court further concludes the balance of hardships weigh strongly in favor of granting the stay, given the acute need of healthcare providers, prosecuting agencies, and the public for legal clarity as to the application of our criminal laws. Notably, in the underlying litigation both parties sought some form of such clarification from the court.” Abortion was recently among the discussion topics at a debate between Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly (D) and his Republican opponent in this year’s Senate elections, Blake Masters. Kelly highlighted how Masters had previously seemingly referred to abortion as “demonic,” which is out of step with the numerous Americans supportive of abortion rights.