Arizona Supreme Court Upholds 1864 Abortion Ban

Arizona Supreme Court Upholds 1864 Abortion Ban

The Arizona Supreme Court issued a landmark decision on Tuesday, upholding a 1864 law that effectively bans nearly all abortions in the state. This ruling has reignited the contentious debate over abortion rights in the US Southwest and is poised to make Arizona a focal point in the 2024 electoral battle over reproductive rights.

The court's decision allows Arizona to enforce a near-total abortion ban that was first passed before the state's inception and remained dormant for decades following the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide. However, the justices also granted a 14-day window before requiring the state to enforce the ban, allowing advocates an opportunity to seek a pause through lower courts.

Under the 4-2 ruling, the ban can only be enforced "prospectively," meaning that it applies to future cases of abortion. Shortly after the decision was announced, Kris Mayes, Arizona's Democratic attorney general, vowed not to prosecute doctors or women under the 1864 ban, labeling the decision as a historical stain on the state.

The ruling has prompted swift responses from both sides of the abortion debate. Abortion rights supporters have been mobilizing for months to gather signatures for a ballot measure aimed at enshrining abortion rights into the state constitution. This measure would declare abortion a "fundamental right" and restrict the state from intervening before fetal viability, typically around 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Despite the daunting signature requirement, organizers of the ballot measure announced they had exceeded the threshold, with over 500,000 signatures collected. Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, condemned the court's decision as a "dark day" for the state and urged abortion rights supporters to make their voices heard in the upcoming November election.

Hobbs, who previously issued an executive order protecting abortion access, reaffirmed her commitment to preserving reproductive care in the state, despite potential legal challenges to her directive. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood Arizona and other abortion providers have vowed to remain open and continue offering services within the constraints of the law.

Dr. Gabrielle Goodrick, a prominent abortion provider in Phoenix, affirmed her clinic's commitment to staying open and serving patients, at least during the 14-day window provided by the court's ruling. However, concerns linger about the potential repercussions of the decision, particularly for neighboring states like Texas, where abortion access is severely restricted.

Vice President Kamala Harris swiftly condemned the ruling, attributing it to the influence of former President Donald Trump's appointments to the Supreme Court. Harris warned of the broader implications of the decision and its potential to embolden further restrictions on reproductive rights nationwide.

The ruling has also thrust abortion into the spotlight of Arizona's upcoming elections. Democrat Ruben Gallego, who is running for the US Senate, vowed to protect abortion rights at the federal level, framing the issue as a fundamental battle against extremism.

Republican candidate Kari Lake, while previously expressing staunch anti-abortion views, called for a "common sense solution" to address the issue and deferred to Arizona voters to make the final decision in November.

Until the 1864 ban is fully enforced, abortion remains accessible in Arizona up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. However, the law makes it illegal to "procure the miscarriage" of a pregnant woman, with only limited exceptions for cases where the woman's life is at risk.

The long-term impact of the ruling on abortion access in Arizona and its implications for the broader reproductive rights landscape remain uncertain. However, the decision has underscored the high stakes involved in the ongoing battle over abortion rights, both in Arizona and across the nation. As the debate continues to unfold, advocates on both sides are gearing up for a fierce political showdown in the upcoming election cycle.

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