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Arizona abortion ruling upends legal and political landscape from Phoenix to Washington

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LA Post: Arizona abortion ruling upends legal and political landscape from Phoenix to Washington
April 10, 2024
ANITA SNOW and MORGAN LEE - AP

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona abortion providers vowed Wednesday to continue service until they're forced to stop, a pledge that comes day after the state Supreme Court cleared the way for enforcing an 1864 law criminalizing abortion throughout pregnancy unless a woman's life is at risk.

The court decision rocked the state as women, including physicians, grappled with how to respond to a law that comes without exceptions for rape or incest.

State legislators convened as pressure mounted from Democrats and some Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, for them to intervene. House Democrats and at least one Republican tried to open discussion Wednesday on repealing the 1864 ban, but GOP leaders, who command the majority, shut it down twice and quickly adjourned. Outraged Democrats erupted in chants of “Shame! Shame! Shame!”

Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs earlier called on the Legislature to repeal the ban.

“They could do that today,” she told CBS News. “They could gavel in today and make a motion to repeal this.”

According to AP VoteCast, 6 out of 10 Arizona voters in the 2022 midterm elections said they would favor guaranteeing legal abortion nationwide. The state recorded 11,530 abortions in 2022, the last data available, according to the Department of Health Services.

At Camelback Family Planning in Phoenix, where about one-fourth of Arizona abortions are performed, registered nurse Ashleigh Feiring said abortion services were still available and that staff hope emergency legislation will avoid interruptions or closure.

“Our plan is to stay open as long as possible,” Feiring said. “Our clinic has been shut down twice in the last four years, but we’ve always resumed service.”

At the same time, anti-abortion groups including SBA Pro-Life America urged Arizona residents to oppose a proposed ballot initiative aimed at placing abortion rights in Arizona’s state constitution.

“They would wipe away all pro-life laws put in place by the Legislature, reflective of the will of the people," SBA President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement.

Hobbs, however, predicted that outrage will motivate voters to enshrine abortion rights in state law.

“The fight is not over for sure” she said.

Arriving for a campaign fundraiser in Atlanta, Trump said the Arizona court decision went too far and called on state lawmakers to change it even as he defended the U.S. Supreme Court's 2022 ruling overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“It’s all about states’ rights,” the former president told supporters and journalists. “It’ll be straightened out.”

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, most Republican-controlled states have started enforcing new bans or restrictions, and most Democratic-dominated ones have sought to protect abortion access.

The Arizona ruling suggests doctors can be prosecuted for performing the procedure. The 1864 law carries a sentence of two to five years in prison for doctors or anyone else who assists in an abortion.

“Physicians are now on notice that all abortions, except those necessary to save a woman’s life, are illegal,” the Arizona Supreme Court said in its decision, adding that additional criminal and regulatory sanctions may apply to abortions performed after 15 weeks, the state's previous time limit for the procedure.

Beyond that, the court ruling also ignited concern that enforcement might interfere with handling miscarriages.

Enforcing the 1864 law won’t begin for at least two weeks. However, plaintiffs in the case — including Planned Parenthood — said the delay could last up to two months, based on an agreement reached in a related case.

Planned Parenthood has said it will offer abortion services up to 15 weeks of pregnancy for at least two more months, in line with an agreement in the related case. ___ Associated Press writers Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix and Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada, contributed to this report.

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