‘Catastrophic’: Arizona judge allows 1864 abortion ban to go into effect

"No archaic law should dictate our reproductive freedom," said one rights advocate.

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SOURCECommon Dreams

Planned Parenthood Arizona on Friday night vowed that its fight to protect reproductive healthcare in the state was “far from over” after a judge lifted a decades-old injunction which had blocked an anti-abortion rights law dating back to 1864—before Arizona was even established as a state—and allowed the ban to be enforced.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson said in her ruling that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which affirmed the constitutional right to abortion care, had been the basis for barring the 1864 law from being enforced. Since Roe was overturned in June, she said, the injunction should be annulled.

Johnson’s decision will “unleash [a] near-total abortion ban in Arizona,” said Planned Parenthood Arizona, with the law including no exceptions for people whose pregnancies result from rape or incest. Under the law, which was first passed by Arizona’s territorial legislature and then updated and codifed in 1901, anyone who helps a pregnant person obtain abortion care can be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

The law does include an exception for “a medical emergency,” according to The New York Times, but as Common Dreams has reported, such an exception in practice has already resulted in a Texas woman being forced to carry a nonviable pregnancy until her health was deemed sufficiently in danger before a doctor provided care.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs told the Times that “medical professionals will now be forced to think twice and call their lawyer before providing patients with oftentimes necessary, lifesaving care.”

In a statement on Twitter, Hobbs vowed to “do everything in my power to protect” abortion rights in Arizona, “starting by using my veto pen to block any legislation that compromises the right to choose” if she becomes governor.

“No archaic law should dictate our reproductive freedom,” Brittany Fonteno, the president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said in a statement. “I cannot overstate how cruel this decision is.”

The ruling was handed down a day before the state’s 15-week abortion ban, which was signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in March, was set to go into effect. Although abortion care had remained legal in Arizona after Roe was overturned on June 24, it has been largely unavailable as medical providers waited to see whether Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s motion to lift the injunction on the 1864 law would succeed.

Johnson’s ruling made Arizona the 14th state to ban nearly all abortions following the overturning of Roe. Earlier this month, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) announced his proposal to pass a nationwide forced-pregnancy bill that would ban abortion care at 15 weeks of pregnancy.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Saturday called the ruling “catastrophic, dangerous, and unacceptable.”

“Make no mistake: this backwards decision exemplifies the disturbing trend across the country of Republican officials at the local and national level dead-set on stripping women of their rights,” she said.

Planned Parenthood Arizona, which had argued in court that medical professionals in the state should be permitted to continue providing abortions under the 15-week ban, said its “lawyers are evaluating next steps in the case.”

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