Arizona pro-choice advocates complain of overlapping anti-abortion laws

On Monday, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich reached an agreement with abortion rights advocates in Maricopa County to halt their lawsuit challenging the 1864 near-total abortion ban that Brnovich has argued should take precedence over the 15-week ban Gov. Doug Ducey signed in March.

 

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The Maricopa County lawsuit was filed earlier this month by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Arizona, and the law firm Perkins Coie on behalf of abortion provider Dr. Paul Isaacson and the Arizona Medical Association. According to the ACLU, the lawsuit seeks to clarify the legality of abortion under Arizona’s multiple overlapping bans and allow abortion care to resume through 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Abortion advocates across the state have been complaining about the legal confusion caused by what they claim to be conflicting laws. 

“The state of Arizona has caused complete chaos by seeking to enforce clashing abortion bans, including one of the most extreme in the country,” President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights Nancy Northup said. “This has put Arizonans in an untenable situation. Providers and patients have no sense of what the law is and whether they are breaking it. The court must restore abortion access and put an end to this legal and public health crisis.”

Brnovich agreed this week to wait to enforce the 1864 ban until a decision has been reached regarding Planned Parenthood Arizona’s lawsuit against the same ban in Pima County, which is expected to go to the Arizona Supreme Court, according to reporting done by Arizona’s Family. 

On Sept 23rd, Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson lifted an injunction blocking the 1864 ban from going into effect. This meant that, starting Sept. 23rd, any providers in Arizona who performed an abortion that was not necessary to save the life of the pregnant person could be charged, convicted, and punished with a 2-to-5-year sentence in the state penitentiary.

Soon after the injunction on the 1864 ban was lifted, Planned Parenthood Arizona filed an emergency stay of the Sept. 23rd decision, requesting that the Arizona Court of Appeals temporarily block enforcement of the 1864 ban while Planned Parenthood Arizona appealed the decision. 

On Oct. 7th, a 3-judge panel in the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood Arizona’s appeal and ruled that the Pima County Superior Court judge should not have lifted the injunction on the 1864 ban. This new ruling prevents enforcement of the ban during Planned Parenthood Arizona’s appeal process and allows abortion care to resume immediately under the 15-week ban. 

“While today’s ruling brings temporary respite to Arizonans, the ongoing threat of this extreme, near-total abortion ban that has no regard for the health care of those across the state, including survivors of rape or incest remains very real,” President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona Brittany Fonteno said in a statement.

“For over 100 days, Arizonans have experienced pure chaos and confusion and it has been traumatic for our physicians and staff who have been forced to notify patients that they can no longer care for them. The court’s decision to issue a stay while the legal process continues to unfold will allow Planned Parenthood Arizona to resume abortion care services. Planned Parenthood Arizona is committed to defending reproductive freedom for all and continuing this fight until this 150-year-old law is taken off the books for good.”

The 15-week ban on abortions will remain in effect until a decision has been made regarding the Planned Parenthood lawsuit. Arizona’s Family reports that Brnovich and the abortion advocates involved in the Maricopa County lawsuit have agreed that there will be a 45-day waiting period before any laws are enforced once a decision has been made in Pima County.