What's going on with the Arizona abortion ban from 1864?

What's going on with the Arizona abortion ban from 1864?

On Tuesday, April 9, 2024, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the state will adhere to an old law that bans all abortions with the exception of saving the life of a pregnant person. This law was written in 1864– 160 years ago. Back to the stone ages we go. 

In the ruling, Justice John R. Lopez IV wrote, “in light of this Opinion, physicians are now on notice that all abortions, except those necessary to save a woman’s life, are illegal.” This new ban makes Arizona one of the worst states in the country to be a pregnant person who is seeking to end her pregnancy. And it is not a reflection of what Arizonans want. In 2022 exit polls, only 5% of Arizona residents wanted a near-total abortion ban

This abortion ban goes into effect 45 days after the ruling, in late May. Until that date, Planned Parenthood Arizona and other abortion clinics throughout the state have vowed to continue providing abortions to those who need them.

Let’s understand the context around the 1864 ban that has been brought back to life. When this law was written Arizona was not a state. When the law was written, human rights in the US were at an all time low. The ban was voted on by less than 900 white men in a time when slavery was legal and women had essentially no rights: they were not able to vote, own property, or divorce an abusive husband. On Tuesday Arizona’s attorney general Kris Mayes noted, “Today’s decision to reimpose a law from a time when Arizona wasn’t a state, the civil war was raging, and women couldn’t even vote will go down in history as a stain on our state.” 

What are the real implications of this near-total abortion ban? People are going to suffer at the hands of this law- and not just Arizonans. Abortion providers in Arizona work with patients from states with total abortion bans- like Texas. This decision will have a ripple effect. The ban gives no exceptions for cases of rape and incest. Rape victims will be forced to give birth to their rapist’s baby. In what way is this pro-life? The only exception for abortion is to save the life of the pregnant person– similar to Texas. But we’ve seen in Texas that the rules for when it is considered “saving the life of the mother” can be extremely restrictive and still result in death or long lasting medical issues. 

There are also implications for doctors who continue to perform abortions of any kind. This could mean time behind bars for helping people terminate their pregnancies. However Attorney General Mayes has stated that no woman or doctor would be prosecuted for an abortion as long as she remains in office. At the same time, state republicans are trying to make the case that she is operating outside of her authority. 

On the horizon- an abortion amendment might be on the Arizona ballot in November. Arizona for Abortion Access has collected over 500,000 of the 383,923 signatures needed to put abortion on the ballot in Arizona in november. The amendment they are petitioning to put on the ballot is an initiative to make abortion a fundamental right through the second trimester, with exceptions after to protect the life of the pregnant individual. This November, Arizona may be one of around a dozen states that will directly vote on abortion rights. Take this as your reminder to register to vote.

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