Arizona Judge Reinstates Strict Abortion Ban From 1864

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A judge on Friday ruled that a near-total abortion ban written before Arizona became a state must be enforced, throwing abortion access into question one day before the start of a 15-week ban that passed the Legislature this year.

The stricter ban, which can be traced to 1864, was blocked by a court injunction in 1973 shortly after the Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, determined that there was a constitutional right to abortion.

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On Friday, Judge Kellie Johnson of Pima County Superior Court lifted that injunction, noting that Roe had been overruled in June and that Planned Parenthood’s request for the court to “harmonize the laws” in Arizona was flawed.

“The court finds that because the legal basis for the judgment entered in 1973 has now been overruled, it must vacate the judgment in its entirety,” she wrote. “The court finds an attempt to reconcile 50 years of legislative activity procedurally improper.”

Planned Parenthood Arizona had argued that the conflicting laws should be harmonized so licensed physicians could continue providing abortions under the new regulation, with the much earlier law applying to others performing the procedure.

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Even though abortion remained legal in Arizona after the Supreme Court’s decision this year, it has been all but unavailable, as doctors and abortion clinics have tried to sort out confusion about which law would ultimately take effect. Even politicians disagreed on the relationship between the laws, which each provide exceptions only in the case of a medical emergency.

Gov. Doug Ducey has said that the 15-week ban he signed in March would supersede the century-old ban, but Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a fellow Republican, has argued that the older ban should take precedence. Mr. Brnovich filed the motion to vacate the decades-old injunction.

“We applaud the court for upholding the will of the Legislature and providing clarity and uniformity on this important issue,” Mr. Brnovich said in a statement after the ruling. “I have and will continue to protect the most vulnerable Arizonans.”

Abortion rights supporters were critical of the judge’s decision.

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“Today’s ruling by the Pima County Superior Court has the practical and deplorable result of sending Arizonans back nearly 150 years,” Brittany Fonteno, the president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said in a statement. “No archaic law should dictate our reproductive freedom and how we live our lives today.”

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