A Tucson judge will rule on Arizona's pre-statehood abortion ban next month

By Andrew Oxford/AZPM, Alisa Reznick
Published: Saturday, August 20, 2022 - 7:46am
Updated: Monday, August 22, 2022 - 1:01pm
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The future of Arizona’s abortion ban is now in the hands of a Pima County Superior Court judge.

On Friday, lawyers for the Attorney General’s Office argued for putting the old law back into force.

A Tucson judge issued an injunction blocking enforcement of the ban in 1973 after the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe vs. Wade.

In court Friday, Solicitor General Beau Roysden argued that now the high court has overturned Roe, the injunction should be lifted.

"This is the law and he court as a court of law's job is to apply and then all these policy arguments can go to the Legislature, which will of course convene in January," he told the court.

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But Planned Parenthood attorney Sarah Mac Dougall said that would nullify half a century of other laws the Legislature has passed regulating abortion.

"The AG wants this court to turn every principle of statutory interpretation on its head and grant him a undemocratic windfall by allowing the oldest statute on Arizona's books to resurrect and overtake all other statutes on abortion," she said.

A few dozen abortion rights advocates gathered after the hearing a few yards from the entrance of the courthouse. 

"Arizonans have been living in a state of crisis and confusion at the hands of the attorney general who has abdicated his responsibility for letting us know what our rights are when it comes to bodily autonomy," Brittany Fonteno, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, told the crowd after the hearing. 

The pre-statehood law makes all abortion illegal except to save the life of the pregnant person. After Roe vs. Wade was overturned in June, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich moved to put the law back in effect.

Meanwhile, a new Arizona law bans abortion in most cases after 15 weeks and is set to take effect in September. Attorneys for the state of Arizona argue both laws can exist simultaneously. Planned Parenthood's lawyers argue allowing the old law to take effect will only add to the legal confusion providers and patients currently face.

Melissa Garcia, chief external affairs officer for Planned Parenthood, said she struggled to find sex education resources growing up and that Planned Parenthood helped fill the gap.

"And I think, within our Latinx communities, communities of color in general, banning abortion will not make abortion go away," she said.  

Garcia said instead, bans will lead to more confusion and stigma. Planned Parenthood leaders were also joined by Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, who said nine out of ten Arizonans "believe that people should make their own reproductive choices, including abortion services." The city passed a resolution in support of abortion rights ahead of the official ruling overturning Roe vs. Wade in June.

In court Friday, Judge Kellie Johnson, a former prosecutor appointed to the bench by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, said she will issue a decision in September.

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