An Arizona state appeals court has issued a ruling barring authorities from using a century-old law to prosecute doctors who perform abortions.
Centered in the case heard by the Pima County Superior Court was a law from 1864, which stipulated that medical providers could be prosecuted and sentenced to up to five years in prison for performing an abortion.
The ban was blocked in 1973 following a court injunction after the U.S. Supreme Court’s original decision in Roe v Wade. But after Roe was struck down in 2022, a judge ruled that the legal basis for the injunction was no longer valid, opening the door for doctors to face criminal charges for abortion services.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich sought to have the injunction lifted, with attorneys for the state arguing that a state law passed in 2022 banning abortions after 15-weeks did not repeal the 1864 law, a move which received immediate criticism from pro-abortion interests.
Within weeks of that ruling, an appellate court granted a motion by Planned Parenthood to halt the order. The appeals court issued a final ruling on Dec. 30 stating that doctors cannot face charges, as there are other laws on the books allowing abortion.
“Let me be crystal clear that today is a good day. The Arizona Court of Appeals has given us the clarity that Planned Parenthood Arizona has been seeking for months: when provided by licensed physicians in compliance with Arizona’s other laws and regulations, abortion through 15 weeks will remain legal,” Brittany Fonteno, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said in a statement the day the appellate court’s decision was announced.
“Stopping Attorney General Brnovich’s efforts to impose a near-total abortion ban in the state has been a hard-fought victory, but we won’t be fooled, we know the work is not over,” she added.
Alexis McGill Johnson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called the appellate court ruling a monumental victory, saying, “There is no doubt that there will be more anti-abortion attacks in the coming months and years, but for now, the cruel and antiquated near-total abortion ban will not block Arizonans from maintaining control over their bodies, health care decisions, and futures.”