Arizona judge: state can enforce near-total abortion ban

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PHOENIX (TUSEN) — Arizona can enforce a near-complete abortion ban that has been blocked for nearly 50 years, a judge ruled Friday, meaning clinics across the state will have to stop providing the procedures to file criminal charges against doctors and other medical professionals.

An injunction has long blocked enforcement of a law, which has been on the books since before Arizona became a state, banning nearly all abortions. The only exception is if the woman’s life is in danger.

The ruling also means that people who want an abortion will have to go to another state to get one.

An appeal against the ruling is likely.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson’s decision came more than a month after she heard arguments over Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s request to lift the ban. It came into effect shortly after the US Supreme Court ruling in 1973 in the Roe v. Wade case, which held that women had a constitutional right to abortion.

The Supreme Court overturned Roe on June 24, saying states can regulate abortion however they want.

What is allowed in each state has shifted as lawmakers and courts acted. 12 Republican-led states prohibit abortion at any time during pregnancy.

In another state, Wisconsin, clinics have stopped providing abortions during lawsuits over whether an 1849 ban is in effect. Georgia bans abortions as soon as fetal cardiac activity is detected, and Florida and Utah have bans that come into effect after 15 and 18 weeks gestation, respectively.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Below is TUSEN’s earlier story.

The 15-week law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed in March by GOP Governor Doug Ducey was passed in hopes that the U.S. Supreme Court would scale back limits on abortion prescriptions. It reflected a Mississippi law that the Supreme Court was considering at the time that cut about nine weeks off the previous threshold.

Instead, the conservative court majority judges have completely overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that said women have the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. Now states are allowed to make all abortions illegal, and a dozen have done so, while others have set new limits.

Abortion enemies celebrated the passage of the 15-week ban. Ducey, who signed every abortion restriction bill that reached his office during his eight years in office, also applauded the 15-week ban.

“In Arizona, we know there is immeasurable value in every life, including the unborn,” Ducey said in his March 30 signing letter. “I believe it is the responsibility of every state to protect them.”

The same day he signed the abortion ban, Ducey also passed legislation banning transgender women and girls from playing on women’s sports teams. It will also go into effect on Saturday, along with most of the other laws passed this year.

Meanwhile, abortion providers are awaiting a decision from a judge in Tucson, who is considering a request by Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich to lift a ban, as just after Roe was ruled that enforcement of the pre-statehood law was blocking .

Ducey has a similar approach. He has argued that the 15-week ban he signed takes precedence over the old law, which was first enacted as part of the series of laws known as the “Howell Code” passed in 1864 by the first territorial legislature. of Arizona was adopted.

Despite his conflict with Brnovich over whether the new or old laws take precedence, Ducey did not send his in-house attorneys to defend his position at the August 19 hearing.

The 15-week law affects only about 5% of abortions performed in the state, according to statistics in the previous three annual reports prepared by the Arizona Department of Health Services. The state averaged just under 13,000 abortions a year at that time.

But coupled with a law passed last year banning abortions because a fetus has a genetic abnormality, such as Down syndrome, the restrictions are mounting, said Dr. DeShawn Taylor, who provides abortion services at her clinic in Glendale.

“People forget that these percentages are real people,” Taylor said in an interview on Tuesday. “Arizona’s population continues to grow…and those five to 10% are a lot of people who otherwise have to either stay pregnant or find a way out of the state to get the care they need.”

Providers pointed to the pre-statehood and a “personhood” law that includes a provision banning abortion for genetic reasons that they feared could lead to prosecution for closure. But after a federal judge on July 11 blocked that provision saying it was unconstitutionally vague, Taylor and other providers restarted the services.

But it was difficult because her staff still feared prosecution, she said. A longtime nurse had quit before Roe was destroyed because she was concerned about the impending decision, Taylor said.

Her medical assistant also left, and another nurse who had assisted with abortions for three years was initially reluctant to restart procedures over unfounded concerns that she could face criminal charges.

“It took some time to convince that person that I don’t want to go to jail either,” Taylor said. “Why would I do something illegal and ask her to do the same?”

In the end, the nurse agreed to help, but only with non-surgical abortions, Taylor said.

On Monday, Taylor said she had done her last pre-abortion consultation because she expected the ruling could come Tuesday. Arizona requires an ultrasound and consultation that takes at least a day before an abortion is performed, and she didn’t want patients to have to cancel a procedure.

After a turbulent summer, Taylor said Friday that she has shut down her clinic for the rest of the month.

This is a story in development. Come back for updates.

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