Judge clears Arizona to enforce near-total ban on abortion
The US state of Arizona can enforce a near-total ban on abortions that has been blocked for nearly 50 years, a judge ruled on Friday, meaning clinics statewide will have to stop providing the procedures to avoid the filing of criminal charges against doctors and other medical workers.
The judge lifted a decades-old injunction that blocked enforcement of the law on the books since before Arizona became a state.
The only exemption to the ban is if the woman’s life is in jeopardy.
The ruling means the state’s abortions clinics will have to shut down and anyone seeking an abortion will have to go out of state.
The ruling takes effect immediately, although an appeal is possible.
Planned Parenthood and two other large providers said they were halting abortions.
Abortion providers have been on a roller coaster since the US Supreme Court in June overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing women a constitutional right to an abortion.
At first providers shut down operations, then re-opened, and now have to close again.
Planned Parenthood had urged the judge not to allow enforcement, and its president declared that the ruling “takes Arizonans back to living under an archaic, 150-year-old law”.
“This decision is out of step with the will of Arizonans and will cruelly force pregnant people to leave their communities to access abortion,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.
Republican attorney general Mark Brnovich, who had urged the judge to lift the injunction so the ban could be enforced, cheered.
“We applaud the court for upholding the will of the Legislature and providing clarity and uniformity on this important issue,” Mr Brnovich said in a statement.
“I have and will continue to protect the most vulnerable Arizonans.”
The ruling comes amid an election season in which Democrats have seized on abortion rights as a potent issue.
Repealing Roe v. Wade set Arizona women’s rights back decades. This decision sets them back 158 years, to before Arizona was even a state. I won’t stop until we restore abortion rights so my granddaughter can have the same freedoms my grandmother did
Senator Mark Kelly, under a challenge from Republican Blake Masters, said it “will have a devastating impact on the freedom Arizona women have had for decades” to choose an abortion.
Democrat Katie Hobbs, who is running for governor, called it the product of a decades-long attack on reproductive freedom by Republicans that can only be fended off by voters in November.
Mr Masters and Kari Lake, the Republican running against Ms Hobbs, both back abortion restrictions.
Their campaigns had no immediate comment.
Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson ruled more than a month after hearing arguments on Brnovich’s request to lift the injunction.
The near-total abortion ban was enacted decades before Arizona secured statehood in 1912.
Prosecutions were halted after the injunction was handed down following the Roe decision.
Even so, the Legislature reenacted the law in 1977.
In overturning Roe on June 24, the US Supreme Court said states can regulate abortion as they wish.
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