A judge ruled Friday that Arizona can enforce a near-total ban on abortions that have been blocked for nearly 50 years, meaning that clinics across the country will have to stop providing the procedures to avoid criminal charges against doctors and other medical workers.
The judge lifted a decades-old injunction that had blocked enforcement of the law on the books since before Arizona became a state. The ruling means that the state's abortion clinics will have to shut down and anyone seeking an abortion will have to go out of state. The ruling takes effect immediately, although an appeal is possible.
Since June, abortion providers have been on a rollercoaster since the US Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v Wade decision that gave women the right to abortion, allowing states to regulate abortion as they wish.
Planned Parenthood had urged the judge not to allow enforcement, and its president declared the ruling takes Arizonans back to living under an archaic, 150-year-old law Mark Brnovich, the Republican attorney general, who had urged the judge to lift the injunction so the ban could be enforced.
Brnovich applauds the court for upholding the will of the legislature and providing clarity and uniformity on this important issue.
The ruling comes amid an election season in which Democrats have seized abortion rights as a potent issue. Under a challenge from Republican Blake Masters, Senator Mark Kelly said it will have a devastating impact on the freedom Arizona women have had for decades to choose an abortion. Democrat Katie Hobbs, who is running for governor, said it was the result of a decades-long attack on reproductive freedom by Republicans that can only be fended off by voters in November.
Masters and Kari Lake, the Republican running against Hobbs, both support abortion restrictions.
Before Arizona secured statehood in 1912, the near-total abortion ban was enacted decades later. Prosecutions were stopped after the injunction was handed down by the Roe decision. The law was reacted to by the legislature several times, most recently in 1977.
Anyone convicted of performing a surgical abortion or providing drugs for a medication abortion could face up to five years in prison.
A doctor who runs a clinic that provides abortions said she was dismayed but not surprised by the decision. It kind of goes with what I have been saying for a while now: It is the intent of the people who run this state that abortion is illegal here, said Dr DeShawn Taylor.
The judge said Planned Parenthood was free to file a new challenge. The chances of success seem slim with Arizona's tough abortion laws and the state's supreme court and legislature controlled by Republicans.
In 12 Republican-led states, the ban on abortion was in place, while clinics in Wisconsin stopped providing abortions due to litigation over whether or not an 1849 ban is in effect. Georgia bans abortions once fetal cardiac activity can be detected. Florida and Utah have bans that kick in after 15 and 18 weeks gestation.
The decision came a day before a new Arizona law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.