“The statutes, read together, make it clear that physicians may perform abortions as regulated” by other abortion laws, the appeals court wrote.
The state’s previous law, which allows abortion only if a patient’s life is in danger, had been blocked from taking effect shortly after the US Supreme Court issued its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing women the constitutional right to abortion.
But after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark decision in June, Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked a state judge to allow the law to take effect.
The Arizona Court of Appeals said it did not view the pre-state law in isolation from other state abortion laws, explaining that “the legislature has created a complex regulatory scheme to achieve its intent to restrict, but not eliminate, elective abortions.”
In a statement, Brittany Fonteno, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said the decision means a state law limiting abortions to 15 weeks of pregnancy will stand.
“Let me be clear today is a good day,” Fonteno said. “The Arizona Court of Appeals has given us the clarity that Planned Parenthood Arizona has been seeking for months: when provided by physicians licensed under Arizona’s other laws and regulations, abortion within 15 weeks will remain legal.”
The appeals court rejected Brnovich’s contention that doctors could be prosecuted under pre-state law, saying the attorney general’s argument ignores the Legislature’s intent to regulate but not eliminate abortions and violates due process by promoting arbitrary enforcement.
“Construing Brnovich would not only invite arbitrary application, it would virtually require it,” the appeals court wrote.
The attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the decision, which was released late Friday. In a tweet, Attorney General-elect Kris Mayes, a supporter of abortion rights, said she agreed with the ruling that doctors cannot be prosecuted for performing the procedure in the first 15 weeks of pregnancy and promise to “continue to fight for reproductive freedom.” “
Abortion providers stopped offering the procedure in the state after Roe was overturned, restarting in mid-July after a court blocked a “personhood” law that gave legal rights to unborn children and stopped again when a judge in Tucson allowed the law of 1864. to be enforced.
Planned Parenthood Arizona, the state’s largest abortion provider, restarted abortion care statewide after Brnovich’s office agreed in another lawsuit not to enforce the old law at least until next year.
A Phoenix doctor who runs a clinic that offers abortions and the Arizona Medical Association had also filed a separate lawsuit seeking to block the territorial-era law, arguing that laws enacted by the Legislature after the decision of Roe should take precedence and abortions should be allowed. up to 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Brnovich sought to put that suit on hold until the Court of Appeals decides the Planned Parenthood case. In an agreement with the abortion doctor and the medical college, he said he would not enforce the old law until at least 45 days after a final ruling in the initial case.
A law enacted by the Legislature this year limits abortions to 15 weeks of pregnancy, well before the 24 weeks generally allowed under the Roe decision that was overturned by the US Supreme Court in June.
After the Roe decision was overturned and the issue of abortion was left to the states, bans went into effect in some states.
Abortion is illegal at all stages of pregnancy, with several exceptions, in 13 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia Western and Wisconsin.
Bans in Arizona, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah and Wyoming are also not in place, at least for now, as courts decide whether they can be enforced.