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Photo Credit: Mother Jones

Arizona reinstates 1864 abortion ban

In a groundbreaking decision on Tuesday, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in favor of upholding a 160-year-old near-total abortion ban, reigniting debates over reproductive rights in the state. 

The ruling, which adds Arizona to the list of states with effectively banned abortion care, comes amidst a wave of similar legal battles across the United States.

The law in question, dating back to 1864 and subsequently codified in 1901 and 1913, criminalizes abortion with exceptions only to save the life of the woman. The appellate court’s ruling last year, stating that the law could stand if “harmonized” with a more recent 2022 law, led to confusion regarding the legality of abortion at different stages of pregnancy in Arizona.

The Arizona Supreme Court’s decision, which could potentially shutter abortion clinics in the state, overturns a lower court’s ruling that favored a 15-week ban enacted in March 2022. However, the court has put its decision on hold for 14 days, allowing for further deliberation on constitutional challenges.

Attorney General Kris Mayes, a Democrat, has expressed opposition to enforcing the law, labeling it “draconian” and asserting that no woman or doctor would be prosecuted under it during her tenure. 

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have also criticized the ruling, emphasizing its implications for women’s freedom and reproductive rights.

Governor Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, has urged the GOP-controlled Legislature to repeal the 1864 ban, though Republican lawmakers have shown no immediate inclination to do so. Meanwhile, reproductive rights advocates are exploring legal and electoral avenues to counter the ruling, including a proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. ballot.

The court’s decision marks the latest development in a protracted legal battle over abortion rights in Arizona, with implications for both state and national politics. The ruling underscores the significance of reproductive rights issues in upcoming elections, potentially influencing outcomes in the presidential and U.S. Senate races.

Despite the polarized reactions, the decision reflects the complex and evolving landscape of abortion law in Arizona. With ongoing litigation and political mobilization on both sides of the debate, the future of reproductive rights in the state remains uncertain.

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