Today: May 30, 2024
Today: May 30, 2024

Explainer-What's next after Arizona's highest court upheld an abortion ban?

Share This
Explainer-What's next after Arizona's highest court upheld an abortion ban?
April 15, 2024
Brendan Pierson - Reuters

By Brendan Pierson

(Reuters) - The Arizona Supreme Court's decision reviving a near-total abortion ban dating back to the 19th century is at odds with a pledge from the state's Democratic governor and chief prosecutor to protect abortion rights. Here is how the conflict could unfold.

WHAT IS THE LAW THAT WAS REVIVED?

The law was passed in 1864, long before Arizona was a state. It bans all abortion except to save the mother's life and does not include any exception for rape or incest. It carries a sentence of up to five years in prison for performing an abortion.

DID THE COURT'S RULING LEAVE ROOM FOR FURTHER CHALLENGES TO THE LAW?

Yes. The Supreme Court's ruling addressed only the narrow issue of whether the 19th century law was repealed by a more recent 15-week abortion ban passed in 2022, and concluded that it was not. It did not weigh in on whether the law might be unconstitutional for other reasons.

WHO MIGHT ENFORCE THE LAW?

Democratic Arizona Attorney General Kristin Mayes has said she will not enforce the 1864 law, as have local prosecutors in some of the state's most populous areas like Maricopa County. Mayes has also said she will use her authority to stop any local prosecutors from prosecuting an abortion case.

Mayes has supervisory authority over county attorneys, and last year Governor Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, issued an executive order giving her authority over all abortion-related prosecutions.

Hobbs and Mayes have said repeatedly that no Arizonans would be prosecuted under the ban while they are in office.

However, that will likely not be enough to reassure abortion providers that they can continue to offer services, because it is not clear whether or how Mayes could use her authority to block a local prosecutor with anti-abortion views from charging someone under the law, legal experts said.

Furthermore, an abortion could still be prosecuted if a new attorney general with different views takes office.

HOW COULD THE LAW NEXT BE CHALLENGED IN COURT?

The ruling stems from a 1971 lawsuit by Planned Parenthood to the 1864 abortion ban. The reproductive rights group and abortion provider ultimately prevailed after the U.S. Supreme Court established a right to abortion in its landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, which remained in place until it was reversed in 2022.

That case, which was reopened by Hobbs' Republican predecessor after Roe was overturned, included claims that the ban violated Arizonans' rights to liberty and privacy under the state constitution, which Tuesday's decision did not address. Planned Parenthood or Mayes' office could ask the court presiding over the case to block the law on those grounds.

The state Supreme Court put its decision on hold for 14 days to allow time for such a request. If a lower court did block the law again, the case could eventually go back to the state's high court on appeal.

Planned Parenthood referred a request for comment to Mayes' office, where a spokesperson said it was considering all legal options.

WHAT OTHER OPTIONS DO ABORTION RIGHTS SUPPORTERS HAVE?

Some observers believe that, in light of the Arizona Supreme Court's ruling, the path forward for abortion rights supporters in the state is more likely political than legal. Democratic lawmakers have already tried to advance legislation repealing the ban, but were blocked by the Republican majority, though some Republicans have supported repealing the ban.

Meanwhile, organizers say they have already gathered enough signatures to present voters with a ballot measure establishing a right to abortion in this November's elections. A similar measure is expected to appear on the ballot in Florida, and previous efforts have been successful in other states including Republican-dominated Kansas and Ohio.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Josie Kao)

Popular

A pair enjoyed pricey meals and bolted when it was time to pay. Their dine and dash ended in jail

A Welsh couple who dined out on pricey meals and then bolted when the bill came is now paying the price

A pair enjoyed pricey meals and bolted when it was time to pay. Their dine and dash ended in jail

Reading the 'tea leaves': TV networks vamp for time during the wait for the Donald Trump verdict

The phrase “tea leaves” was heard incessantly on television news networks as they waited out a Manhattan jury's deliberations in former President Donald Trump's hush money trial

Reading the 'tea leaves': TV networks vamp for time during the wait for the Donald Trump verdict

Biden is said to be finalizing plans for migrant limits as part of a US-Mexico border clampdown

The White House is finalizing plans for a U.S.-Mexico border clampdown that would shut off asylum requests and automatically deny entrance to migrants once the number of people encountered by American border officials exceeded a new daily threshold

Biden is said to be finalizing plans for migrant limits as part of a US-Mexico border clampdown

Sacré bleu! The French Open banned alcohol in the stands after fans were called out for rowdiness

The French Open has banned fans from having alcohol in the stands at the Grand Slam tournament in Paris

Sacré bleu! The French Open banned alcohol in the stands after fans were called out for rowdiness

Roberts rejects Senate Democrats' request to discuss Supreme Court ethics and Alito flag controversy

Chief Justice John Roberts has declined an invitation to meet with Democratic senators to talk about Supreme Court ethics and flags that flew outside Justice Samuel Alito's homes

Roberts rejects Senate Democrats' request to discuss Supreme Court ethics and Alito flag controversy

Related

IRS makes free tax return program permanent and is asking all states to join in 2025

IRS makes free tax return program permanent and is asking all states to join in 2025

Israel could have used smaller weapons against Hamas to avoid deaths in Gaza tent fire, experts say

Israel could have used smaller weapons against Hamas to avoid deaths in Gaza tent fire, experts say

OpenAI's Altman sidesteps questions about governance, Johansson at UN AI summit

OpenAI's Altman sidesteps questions about governance, Johansson at UN AI summit

Mortgage rates snap three-week pullback, pushing average rate on a 30-year home loan back above 7%

Mortgage rates snap three-week pullback, pushing average rate on a 30-year home loan back above 7%
- Advertisement -
Advertisement: Limited Time Offer