Court Battles

Arizona appeals court temporarily blocks state’s 150-year-old abortion ban, restoring access

Celina Washburn protests outside the Arizona Capitol to voice her dissent with an abortion ruling, Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

The Arizona Court of Appeals has temporarily blocked the state’s more-than-a-century-old abortion ban from being enforced after a judge had previously ruled it could be. 

A three-judge panel from the appeals court ruled on Friday that a judge erred in lifting an injunction against the law, which bans the procedure except for cases where the pregnant person’s life is at risk, without considering other laws limiting abortion access that the state has passed since the injunction was put in place nearly 50 years ago.

The order allows abortions in the state to resume while the case proceeds. 

The abortion ban was originally enacted in the 1860s, before Arizona became a state. The law was in place until 1973, when the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision protected abortion access nationally. The injunction on the ban was put in place following the decision.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) sought to allow enforcement of the law after the high court’s June ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe. 

But Arizona’s legislature had passed other less restrictive bans since Roe was decided, including a 15-week ban backed by Gov. Doug Ducey (R), who signed that bill into law before the Dobbs ruling. 

Planned Parenthood of Arizona had argued that the subsequent laws should supersede the total ban, but the state judge ruled that Roe was the only reason the injunction was in place, so the law could be enforced. 

The appeals court panel sided with Planned Parenthood’s argument that other legislation should be considered and ruled that Planned Parenthood has a “substantial likelihood of success” based on its argument. 

“Arizona courts have a responsibility to attempt to harmonize all of this state’s relevant statutes,” the ruling states. “The court further concludes the balance of hardships weigh strongly in favor of granting the stay, given the acute need of healthcare providers, prosecuting agencies, and the public for legal clarity as to the application of our criminal laws.” 

Pro-abortion rights groups filed a lawsuit on Tuesday to ask a state court to clarify the multiple statutes in effect governing abortion access in the state. The near-total ban and 15-week ban were both officially in effect. 

More than a dozen states have moved to ban abortions since the Dobbs ruling through trigger bans and other legislation, but bans in several states have been blocked.

Tags Abortion abortion access abortion ban abortion ban blocked abortion rights appeals court Arizona Arizona abortion Doug Ducey Mark Brnovich
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