Arizona Supreme Court Upholds 160-Year-Old Abortion Ban in Landmark Decision

Arizona Supreme Court Upholds 160-Year-Old Abortion Ban in Landmark Decision

The Arizona Supreme Court has affirmed the state’s authority to enforce a nearly two-century-old, near-total abortion prohibition.

Dating back to 1864, the law predates Arizona’s statehood and stipulates imprisonment of two to five years for abortions, except in cases where the mother’s life is endangered.

The ruling’s ramifications could result in the closure of all abortion clinics statewide, impacting women’s healthcare and looming over the upcoming election.

However, Arizona voters might have the opportunity to overturn the decision through a November referendum.

The verdict follows extensive legal debates over the enforceability of the pre-statehood statute, which had remained largely dormant amidst evolving state legislation, including a 2022 law permitting abortions up to 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Prompted by an appeal from the conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom, the state’s highest court agreed to reevaluate the matter in August 2023, challenging a prior ruling that favoured the newer legislation.

In a 4-2 decision on Tuesday, the court overturned the earlier judgement, asserting that the 1864 law is now enforceable due to the absence of federal or state abortion protections.

This decision was lauded by anti-abortion activists and the Alliance Defending Freedom, hailing it as a significant victory for protecting unborn lives.

Despite the ruling, the enforcement of the law remains uncertain. Governor Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, previously issued an executive order delegating abortion law enforcement to Attorney General Kris Mayes, who has assured that Arizonans will not face prosecution for seeking or performing abortions.

Attorney General Mayes reiterated this commitment, denouncing the law as draconian and emphasising its historical irrelevance.

The decision faced swift criticism from the White House, prominent Democrats, and some Arizona Republicans.

Republican Senate candidate Kari Lake, an ally of Donald Trump, expressed opposition to the ruling, urging Governor Hobbs and the state legislature to seek a sensible resolution. Her Democratic opponent, Ruben Gallego, condemned the ruling as devastating for Arizona women and families, highlighting Lake’s past support for the 1864 law.



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