Arizona Supreme Court announces statewide abortion ban

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The Arizona Supreme Court dropped a bombshell ruling on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, announcing in a 4-2 decision it would uphold a nearly 160-year-old law banning abortion in the state with no exceptions (including for rape and incest) unless the mother’s life is at risk.

The ruling also carries criminal penalties. A doctor could face two to five years in prison if convicted of having performed an abortion.

The stringent abortion ban was first instated in 1864 when Arizona was still considered a territory and not yet a state.

“It’s interesting to look at the ideological split of the justices, justices appointed by Doug Ducey, and those that weren’t,” said Jennifer Piatt, J.D., Research Scholar at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, who joined “Arizona Horizon” to discuss the ruling.

Former Republican Arizona Governor Doug Ducey shared his displeasure with the ruling on the platform X (formerly know as Twitter), writing: “I signed the 15-week law as governor because it is thoughtful, conservative policy and an approach to this very sensitive issue that Arizonans can actually agree on. The ruling today is not the outcome I would have preferred, and I call on our elected leaders to heed the will of the people and address this issue with a policy that is workable and reflective of our electorate.”

Despite what Governor Ducey wrote, many were quick to point out he appointed the justices that voted for the abortion ban.

“So, the Supreme Court said, basically, ‘We’re looking at the 1864 law, and we’re looking at this 15-week ban. And looking at this 15-week ban, we see this sort of interpretation provision that says we, the legislature in 2022, do not intend to ban this 1864 ban.’ And because that’s the legislative intent, because the legislature truly did not repeal this 1864 law, the Arizona Supreme Court essentially said Roe was what was standing in its way. Roe is no longer standing in its way. The legislature does not want to be standing in its way, so this law can be enforceable in the state,” explained Piatt.

The Arizona Supreme Court has a 45-day stay before it can start enforcing the ban.

Piatt said she expects for more litigation to follow in the state. Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes issued a statement shortly after the ruling saying she would not allow for prosecution of any woman or doctor under the ban.

Jennifer Piatt, J.D. Research Scholar, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

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