Judge Says Arizona Can Enforce 1864 Abortion Law

Near-total ban was blocked by 1973 injunction
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 24, 2022 10:45 AM CDT
Judge Says Arizona Can Enforce 1864 Abortion Law
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is seen during his visit to the Yuma Sun on June 2.   (Randy Hoeft/The Yuma Sun via AP, File)

Arizona can enforce a near-total ban on abortions that has been blocked for nearly 50 years, a judge ruled Friday, meaning clinics statewide will have to stop providing the procedures to avoid the filing of criminal charges against doctors and other medical workers. The judge lifted a decades-old injunction that blocked enforcement of the law on the books since before Arizona became a state. The only exemption to the ban is if the woman's life is in jeopardy. The ruling means the state's abortions clinics will have to shut down and anyone seeking an abortion will have to go out of state, the AP reports. The ruling takes effect immediately, although an appeal is possible. Planned Parenthood and two other large providers said they were halting abortions.

Planned Parenthood had urged the judge not to allow enforcement, and its president declared that the ruling "takes Arizonans back to living under an archaic, 150-year-old law." "This decision is out of step with the will of Arizonans and will cruelly force pregnant people to leave their communities to access abortion," Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood Federation of America's president and CEO, said in a statement. Mark Brnovich, the state's Republican attorney general who'd urged the judge to lift the injunction so the ban could be enforced, cheered the ruling. "We applaud the court for upholding the will of the Legislature and providing clarity and uniformity on this important issue," Brnovich said in a statement. "I have and will continue to protect the most vulnerable Arizonans."

The old law was first enacted among a set of laws known as the "Howell Code" adopted by the First Arizona Territorial Legislature in 1864, almost 50 years before Arizona secured statehood. Prosecutions were halted after the injunction was handed down following the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which the Supreme Court overturned in June. Even so, the Legislature reenacted the law in 1977. Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson said that because the injunction was issued in 1973 only because of the Roe decision, it must be lifted in its entirety. Before Friday's ruling, bans on abortion at any point in pregnancy were in place in 12 Republican-led states. In another state, Wisconsin, clinics have stopped providing abortions amid litigation over whether an 1849 ban is in effect. (Read more abortion stories.)

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