Health Law

Arizona Supreme Court issues near-total ban on abortion

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abortion procedure room

An unoccupied recovery area, left, and an abortion procedure room are seen at a Planned Parenthood Arizona facility in Tempe, Ariz., on June 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

Arizona’s conservative Supreme Court on Tuesday revived a near-total ban of abortion, invoking a 1864 law that forbids the procedure except to save a mother’s life and punishes providers with prison time.

The ruling said the law will not be enforced for 14 days. It superseded the previous law, which mandated the right to end a pregnancy by the 15-week mark, resetting policy to the pre-Roe v. Wade era and adding Arizona to the roster of 16 other states where abortion is virtually outlawed.

Under the 1864 law, anyone who administers an abortion could face a mandatory prison sentence of two to five years. That ban could force Arizona’s licensed abortion clinics to ramp down dramatically or shutter. Eight of the nine temporarily closed two years ago when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe, ending national protections for abortion rights.

The legal upheaval landed as reproductive rights advocates push for a November ballot measure that would protect access to abortion in the Arizona state constitution. Campaigners have already gathered more than enough signatures to qualify, according to the Arizona Republic.

“Physicians are now on notice that all abortions, except those necessary to save a woman’s life, are illegal …” the justices wrote in their opinion, “and that additional criminal and regulatory sanctions may apply to abortions performed after fifteen weeks’ gestation.”

Arizona’s court judgment comes a week after Florida’s right-leaning Supreme Court all but prohibited abortion, effective next month. In a separate move, however, the high court in Tallahassee allowed an amendment enshrining the right to the procedure to go on the November ballot.

The justices behind the Arizona decision, four men and two women, were all appointed by Republicans. A fifth male judge had recused himself after reporters resurfaced a Facebook post in which he called abortion “the greatest genocide known to man.”

Since the fall of Roe v. Wade, the fate of abortion access has roused the left, boosting Democrat turnout practically everywhere the issue has been on the ballot and putting Republicans from presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump on down in a defensive posture.

Most Americans disagree with revoking the option to end a pregnancy, and swelling numbers of political moderates have indicated in surveys that the issue will likely influence which candidates they support.

Republicans felt the sting last November when five states across the political spectrum voted on abortion referendums, and each one elected to maintain access.

Trump urged his party this week to step away from the goal of a national abortion ban, at least through the election, igniting public clashes with some of his GOP allies.

“We cannot let our Country suffer any further damage by losing Elections on an issue that should always have been decided by the States …” he wrote in a social media post.

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