Arizona Supreme Court Pauses 1864 Abortion Ban From Taking Effect For Now

Arizona’s Supreme Court granted a request to delay enforcement of an archaic 1864 abortion ban on Monday to allow the state’s Democratic attorney general to consider taking the matter to the nation’s highest court.

Attorney General Kris Mayes had asked for a 90-day stay after the state Supreme Court revived the Civil War-era law last month, which carries 2- to 5-year prison sentences for doctors who perform the procedure, except in an instance to save a pregnant person’s life. The law was effectively moot under the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision, but remained on the books. In 2022, the state’s then-attorney general, a Republican, argued that the 160-year-old law could be enforced after Roe v. Wade was overturned, and the state supreme court agreed.

The ruling shocked abortion rights advocates across the country and began a fierce legislative battle to repeal the law. Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) signed a bill to do so in early May, but the repeal won’t go into effect until 90 days after the current legislative session ends. That isn’t set to happen for weeks, meaning the law may have been enforceable for a brief amount of time.

(When the repeal does take effect, the state will revert to a 2022 law that prohibits most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.)

Mayes’ effort is meant to delay that enforcement for as long as possible until Arizona lawmakers close out the current session. Alongside a separate ruling, Monday’s decision means the 1864 ban won’t be enforceable until Sept. 26 at the earliest, according to the Arizona Mirror.

“I continue to believe this case was wrongly decided, and there are issues that merit additional judicial review,” Mayes said in a statement, referring to last month’s decision to revive the law. “I will do everything I can to ensure that doctors can provide medical care for their patients according to their best judgment, not the beliefs of the men elected to the territorial legislature 160 years ago.”

Mayes said her office would consider the “best legal course of action to take from here,” which could include a petition for judicial review to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Planned Parenthood of Arizona, which operates seven clinics in the state, said it would continue to provide services as long as “legally possible.”

“Planned Parenthood Arizona will continue to provide abortion care through 15 weeks of pregnancy and we remain focused on ensuring patients have access to abortion care for as long as legally possible,” the head of the group’s Arizona chapter said in a statement. “We know that it is now more important than ever to provide care to as many patients as we legally can, and we are committed to expanding our services to meet the increasing needs of our community.”