A timeline of abortion rights in Arizona, 1864 to today

By Katherine Davis-Young
Published: Monday, December 11, 2023 - 4:49am
Updated: Friday, May 24, 2024 - 2:33pm

Abortion rights demonstration at U.S. Supreme Court 2016
Meghan Finnerty/Cronkite News
Abortion rights advocates gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016.

Here's a look at the legal battle over Arizona’s abortion laws, from 1864 through today.

1864

Arizona, still just a territory of the United States, convenes its first territorial legislature. Among laws passed is a near-total ban on abortions.

The law, today known as A.R.S. 13-3603, has never been repealed. It reads:

“A person who provides, supplies or administers to a pregnant woman, or procures such woman to take any medicine, drugs or substance, or uses or employs any instrument or other means whatever, with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage of such woman, unless it is necessary to save her life, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than two years nor more than five years.”

1971

The Planned Parenthood Center of Tucson, Inc.— a predecessor of Planned Parenthood Arizona, joins several doctors in a lawsuit against the state of Arizona. They argue that the state’s near-total abortion ban is a violation of the Arizona and U.S. constitutions.

Sept. 29, 1972

The Pima County Superior Court blocks enforcement of the state’s 1864 abortion law. In the case Planned Parenthood Center of Tucson v. Nelson, the court sides with Planned Parenthood, saying the state’s near-total abortion ban is too broad and violates women’s right to privacy. Arizona Attorney General Gary Nelson appeals the decision.

Jan. 3, 1973

Abortions are once again outlawed in Arizona. The Arizona Court of Appeals reverses a lower court’s decision that had blocked enforcement of the state’s 1864 near-total abortion ban. Judges say the state has an interest in protecting embryos and fetuses and that the Constitutional right to privacy does not extend to abortion.

Jan. 22, 1973

Abortions become legal nationwide. In its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court decides the Constitution protects the right to abortion. In response, the Arizona Court of Appeals, which had just three weeks earlier upheld the state’s abortion ban, agrees to a rehearing of that case.

Jan. 30, 1973

The Arizona Court of Appeals, which had just four weeks earlier upheld the state’s abortion ban, vacates its opinion in the case in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. “We are bound by the United States Supreme Court's interpretation of the United States Constitution,” Judge Joseph Howard writes. The Arizona Court of Appeals places a permanent injunction on the state’s 1864 law banning most abortions. The injunction, blocking enforcement of the law, remains in place in 2022 when the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

March 24, 2022

In a crowd of protesters, one sign clearly reads: Keep your laws off my body.
Amber Victoria Singer/KJZZ
In a crowd of protesters in June 2022 in Phoenix.

Arizona lawmakers vote to pass SB 1164. The bill outlaws abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, except in some medical emergencies. The text of the bill notes that it is not meant to repeal Arizona’s 1864 near-total ban on abortions. The bill is modeled after a Mississippi law, which also sought to outlaw abortions after 15 weeks. The Mississippi law, at the time, is still under consideration in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. When SB 1164 is passed in Arizona, it is unenforceable because the landmark Supreme Court cases Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey give patients the right to terminate a pregnancy in the U.S. up until a fetus would be viable outside the womb — usually about 24 weeks gestation.

March 30, 2022

Gov. Doug Ducey and Cathi Herrod
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Gov. Doug Ducey in 2015, shortly after being elected, speaking to members of the anti-abortion Center for Arizona Policy at the Capitol. With him is CAP President Cathi Herrod.

Gov. Doug Ducey signs SB 1164 into law

At the time SB 1164 is passed in Arizona, it is unenforceable because the landmark Supreme Court cases Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey give patients the right to terminate a pregnancy in the U.S. up until a fetus would be viable outside the womb — usually about 24 weeks gestation.

June 24, 2022

The U.S. Supreme Court ends the constitutional right to abortion. In its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, the Court overturns the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which had guaranteed abortion rights nationwide. The Dobbs decision returns the power to regulate abortion to states. In Arizona, it is not immediately clear which abortion laws should take effect in the absence of Roe. Gov. Doug Ducey says he believes the state should follow a law allowing abortions up to 15 weeks, which he had signed earlier in 2022, while Attorney General Mark Brnovich says he believes the state should enforce the near-total abortion ban from Arizona’s territorial days. In response to the legal confusion, some Arizona clinics pause or limit abortion services.

July 13, 2022

Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, says he believes Arizona’s near-total abortion ban dating to 1864 should take effect. Brnovich files a motion to lift a 1973 injunction, which had blocked enforcement of the law for 49 years while Roe v. Wade was in place. The case heads to the Pima County Superior Court.

Aug. 19, 2022

Pima County Courthouse
Alisa Reznick/KJZZ
The historic Pima County Courthouse in downtown Tucson.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson hears arguments over the state’s conflicting abortion laws.

Attorneys for Planned Parenthood Arizona argue the state’s more recent laws suggest elected officials intended to allow abortions in the state, at least in some circumstances.

“The Arizona Legislature could have had the territorial ban go back into effect if Dobbs were to overturn Roe, but they didn’t,” Sarah Mac Dougall, a staff attorney for Planned Parenthood Federation of America said.

The Attorney General’s office argues that newer laws related to abortion in Arizona do not overturn the state’s near-total ban from 1864 and were only written the way they were because Roe v. Wade was still in place.

“Those laws were passed by the Legislature because the Supreme Court said you are required to recognize a constitutional right to abortion,” attorney Beau Roysden said during the hearing. “There’s nothing in their text that supports the idea that they were intended to statutorily create a right to abortion.”

Sept. 23, 2022

A Planned Parenthood office in Phoenix
Sky Schaudt/KJZZ
A Planned Parenthood office in Phoenix

Abortions in Arizona come to a sudden halt. Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson rules in favor of Attorney General Mark Brnovich, saying Arizona can once again enforce its near-total ban on abortions dating back to 1864 that makes exceptions only to save the life of the mother. Some Arizona abortion clinics begin sending their patients to other states.

Oct. 7, 2022

Some abortions are allowed to resume in Arizona two weeks after a near-total ban on the procedure went back into effect. After Planned Parenthood Arizona appeals the Superior Court judge’s decision, the Arizona Court of Appeals issues a stay on a lower court judge’s ruling, temporarily blocking enforcement of the ban. While some abortions resume, abortion providers in the state struggle to reopen amid staffing shortages and high demand.

Nov. 8, 2022

Katie Hobbs
Bridget Dowd/KJZZ
Gov. Katie Hobbs addresses the crowd during her inauguration at the Arizona Capitol on Jan. 5, 2023.

On Election Day, Arizona voters choose Democrat Katie Hobbs for governor and, by just a few hundred votes, choose Democrat Kris Mayes for attorney general. Both Hobbs and Mayes had made abortion rights central to their campaigns. And both took over their seats from Republicans who had been staunch opponents of abortion.

Nov. 30, 2022

A three-judge panel with the Arizona Court of Appeals revisits the Superior Court judge’s decision from September and hears oral arguments over whether the state should enforce a 2022 law that allows abortions up to 15 weeks in a pregnancy, or a law dating to the 1860s that bans the procedure except to save the life of the pregnant person.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America attorney Sarah Mac Dougall argues the lower court should have clarified how the old law, known as A.R.S. 13-3603, fits in with decades of other legislation related to abortion in Arizona.

“The trial court cannot effectively begin an analysis of the changes in legal circumstances and then stop halfway,” Mac Dougall says in court. “The trial court’s decision effectively took a red pen to those other dozens of laws and struck them out in favor of 13-3603.”

Attorney Michael Catlett, representing the Arizona Attorney General’s Office still under outgoing AG Brnovich, argues that the newer laws Planned Parenthood wants the court to consider should not take precedence over the old law.

“The 15-week law does mention 13-3603. It says it’s not repealing it implicitly or otherwise, and that the 15-week law is not repealing any other law,” Catlett said.

The judges repeatedly ask Catlett why state lawmakers, when they passed the 15-week law, would not have specified that they wanted the near-total ban to go back into effect if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, if that had been their intent.

Dec. 30, 2022

Abortions up to 15 weeks’ gestation are allowed to continue in Arizona after a three-judge panel with the Arizona Court of Appeals reverses a lower court judge’s decision and rules that doctors cannot be prosecuted under the state’s 1864 near-total abortion ban. The judges do not repeal the 1864 law. Rather, they “harmonize” the two laws, saying the 1864 near-total ban on abortions should continue to be in place for non-physicians while doctors should follow the 15-week law.

January 2023

Kris Mayes
Gage Skidmore/CC BY 2.0
Kris Mayes

Gov. Katie Hobbs and Attorney General Kris Mayes, both Democrats, take office. Both Hobbs and Mayes had made abortion rights central to their campaigns. And both took over their seats from Republicans who had been staunch opponents of abortion.

“While we still have anti-abortion politicians likely to be in the majority in the statehouse, the power of the veto pen cannot be overstated,” Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona president Brittany Fonteno told KJZZ News at the time. “Katie Hobbs is going to ensure that there are no new laws put forth by the Legislature that would further restrict our rights when it comes to reproductive health care. That's going to go a long way.”

Mayes says she will not challenge a ruling from the state Court of Appeals that allows doctors to perform abortions through the 15th week of pregnancy.

March 1, 2023

Dr. Eric Hazelrigg, medical director of a group of Phoenix-area anti-abortion pregnancy centers, files a petition for review, asking the Arizona Supreme Court to reconsider the Court of Appeals’ decision allowing abortions up to 15 weeks. Hazelrigg is allowed to petition as an “intervenor” in the case. Yavapai County Attorney Dennis McGrane also submits a petition for review as an intervenor.

June 23, 2023

Gov. Katie Hobbs moves to strip the state’s 15 elected county attorneys of their ability to prosecute doctors who perform abortions. The move gives that power exclusively to Arizona’s attorney general, Kris Mayes. Hobbs’ executive order says that centralizing control over prosecuting abortion care will allow for uniform application of Arizona law.

Arizona Planned Parenthood CEO Brittany Fonteno says the organization supports the order. “Abortion rights are still under attack in Arizona and across the country and we know that anti-abortion advocates and politicians will stop at nothing until abortion is completely banned here and across the country.”

Center for Arizona Policy president Cathi Herrod, a long-time abortion opponent says, “Governor Hobbs exceeded her authority,” and questioned the legality of the move. “Arizona law does not allow Governor Hobbs to strip county attorneys of their clear enforcement authority as granted in various Arizona law.”

August 8, 2023

yes and no bubbles on a ballot
Sky Schaudt/KJZZ
Arizona voters will decide on 10 propositions on the 2022 midterm election.

A coalition of organizations including the ACLU, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona and NARAL Arizona launches a political action committee to get an abortion rights measure onto Arizona ballots in 2024. The committee, known as Arizona for Abortion Access, files proposed language for the “Arizona Abortion Access Act” with the Secretary of State's Office. The proposed constitutional amendment would allow abortions up to the point of fetal viability – usually around 24 weeks. It would also allow exceptions later in pregnancy when health risks are involved.

August 23, 2023

The conservative-majority Arizona Supreme Court announces it will review a case centered around the state’s abortion laws.

Abortion is currently legal until 15 weeks gestation in Arizona. But a near-total ban on abortions dating back to 1864 has never been repealed in the state. The Court will weigh which of the laws can be enforced.

Arizona’s previous attorney general, Republican Mark Brnovich, had pushed for courts to uphold the older law. But the current attorney general, Democrat Kris Mayes, is no longer pursuing the case. Instead, Yavapai County Attorney Dennis McGrane and Dr. Eric Hazelrigg, medical director of a group of Phoenix-area anti-abortion pregnancy centers, are now asking the state Supreme Court to review the case.

The court plans to hear oral arguments Dec. 12, 2023.

Nov. 30, 2023

Bill Montgomery
Howard Fischer/Capital Media Services
Bill Montgomery

Arizona Supreme Court Justice Bill Montgomery recuses himself from the pending case on the state’s abortion laws, after initially denying the request. Planned Parenthood Arizona, the state's largest abortion provider, is a party in the upcoming case. But Justice Bill Montgomery made multiple public statements about the organization before he was appointed to the bench. In a 2017 Facebook post, Montgomery wrote that Planned Parenthood is responsible for “generational genocide.” He also participated in a 2015 protest outside the organization's Arizona headquarters.

Attorneys for Planned Parenthood in October had asked Montgomery to recuse himself from the case. In their motion for recusal, they argued that Montgomery's public statements are examples of prejudice against their organization. They argued that should disqualify Montgomery from hearing the case.

Montgomery initially denied the request, saying he could remain impartial. But in a new filing Nov. 30, Montgomery said additional information came to his attention, warranting that he change his mind. He did not provide further explanation.

Dec. 12, 2023

The Arizona Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Planned Parenthood et al vs. Kristin Mayes/ Eric Hazelrigg.

Yavapai County Attorney Dennis McGrane and Dr. Eric Hazelrigg, medical director of a group of Phoenix-area anti-abortion pregnancy centers, are asked the state Supreme Court to review the case.

The case that will determine if abortions will be allowed up to 15 weeks in Arizona, or banned almost entirely. It could be weeks or months before the justices announce their decision in the case.

Dec. 14, 2023

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell, a Republican, says Arizona's governor has no authority to consolidate prosecutorial power on abortion cases to the Arizona attorney general.

Dec. 29, 2023

The number of abortions performed in Arizona dropped to the lowest level in more than a decade after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022 overturned Roe v. Wade, according to data from the state.

Jan. 10, 2024

The It Goes Too Far campaign is launched to challenge a proposed ballot measure, organized by the group Arizona for Abortion Access, that would amend the state constitution to allow abortions to the point of fetal viability, around 24 weeks. It would also allow exceptions beyond that when health risks are involved. The It Goes Too Far campaign says the language of the proposed amendment would open the door for abortion providers to skirt safety standards and would allow unqualified providers to perform abortions.

Jan. 20, 2024

The National Women's March is held in Phoenix against backdrop of a possible Arizona abortion ban. Organizers of the Bigger Than Roe National Women’s March said Arizona is the next battleground in that state-level fight, designating Phoenix as the national march out of more than 100 events.

Jan. 31, 2024

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs joined 21 other governors to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling limiting access to a widely used abortion drug.

Kamala Harris in Phoenix
Katherine Davis-Young/KJZZ
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks in Phoenix on March 8, 2024.

March 8, 2024

Vice President Kamala Harris visited Phoenix as part of her nationwide Reproductive Freedoms Tour. Harris since January has been visiting battleground states to highlight local challenges to abortion rights. Arizona was the fifth stop on the tour. Harris spoke to about 200 supporters at the South Mountain Community Center alongside Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, Congressman Greg Stanton, and Angela Florez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona.

March 13, 2024

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes cautioned consumers to be aware of so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” that, she says, use misleading tactics to discourage abortion. There are more crisis pregnancy centers than there are licensed abortion clinics in Arizona. In a consumer alert, Mayes said these anti-abortion nonprofits may look like women’s health centers, but they usually don’t advertise that they don’t provide abortions and they are rarely licensed medical facilities. The consumer alert says crisis pregnancy centers may offer services like free ultrasounds without disclosing that the procedures are non-diagnostic.

March 18, 2024

A state lawmaker told her colleagues on the floor of the Arizona Senate that she plans to get an abortion and decried the state’s laws that restrict access to the procedure. Sen. Eva Burch (D-Mesa) shared that she has suffered miscarriages in the past and made the difficult decision to get an abortion after she found out her current pregnancy is not viable. “I don’t think people should have to justify their abortions, but I’m choosing to talk about why I made this decision, because I want us to be able to have meaningful conversations about the reality of how the work that we do in this body impacts people in the real world,” Burch said.

April 2, 2024

More than half a million Arizonans have now signed a petition to put an abortion rights measure on the 2024 ballot, according to the political action committee Arizona for Abortion Access.

Katie Hobbs speaking at a podium with Arizona seal and flag in background
Kevinjonah Paguio/Cronkite News
Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, said the 1864 abortion ban reinstated by the Arizona Supreme Court “must be repealed immediately.” Republican legislative leaders said they were reviewing the ruling to “determine the best course of action.”

April 9, 2024

The state Supreme Court ruled Arizona should follow a law — adopted by the state’s First Territorial Legislature in 1864 — banning abortions in almost all cases. It makes no exceptions for rape or incest and makes performing an abortion punishable by two to five years in prison.A visibly shaken Gov. Katie Hobbs joined Democratic lawmakers shortly after the court published its decision. She criticized the ruling and said lawmakers should act quickly to repeal the law.

“I am calling on the Legislature to do the right thing right now and repeal this 1864 ban and protect access to reproductive health care,” Hobbs said. “The Republican majority in the Legislature has time and again refused to act to protect our freedoms. They have refused to repeal the extreme Civil War near-total abortion ban.”

The abortion ban won’t take effect immediately. Legal experts say there should be a 45- to 60-day delay. But, whenever it takes effect, Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes says she will not prosecute any doctor or woman under the Civil War-era law.

April 10, 2024

Republican leaders of the Arizona House and Senate blocked or outright ignored efforts by legislative Democrats to repeal the state's 1864 law banning abortions except to save the life of the mother. But Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton request to bring the issue to the floor was sidelined by a motion by House Majority Leader Leo Biasucci (R-Lake Havasu City) to instead adjourn for the day. And House Majority Whip Teresa Martinez argued there was no need for a rush, pointing out that the soonest the old law could again take effect is in 60 days. All Republicans save Rep. Matt Gress (R-Phoenix) sided with leadership. That left Stahl Hamilton one vote short of what she needed to even get the issue debated.

April 12, 2024

Vice President Kamala Harris campaigned for reproductive rights in Tucson. Her visit comes days after the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that an 1864 near-total abortion ban is enforceable. “They have turned back the clock to the 1800s to take away a woman's most fundamental right — the right to make decisions about her own body,” Harris said. “This decision by the Arizona state Supreme Court now means women here live under one of the most extreme abortion bans in our nation.”

April 15, 2024

Republicans at the Arizona Legislature may refer multiple proposals to the ballot in an effort to undermine a citizen-led effort to put the right to abortion in the Arizona Constitution, according to documents leaked from the state Capitol. The plans are part of a GOP effort to, in their words, change the narrative after the Arizona Supreme Court reinstated a Civil War era near-total abortion ban in the state.

April 16, 2024

The Pima County Board of Supervisors has passed a resolution condemning the 1864 abortion ban upheld by the Supreme Court this month. The resolution was drafted by Pima County Supervisor Matt Heinz.

Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Sen. Anna Hernandez explains her maneuver Wednesday, April 17, 2024, to force the a vote to repeal the 1864 abortion law.

April 17, 2024

Lawmakers in the Arizona Senate took a first step toward repealing Arizona’s near-total ban on abortion that dates back to 1864. Senate rules prohibit new legislation from being introduced this late in the legislative session, but Sen. Anna Hernandez (D-Phoenix) asked her colleagues to make an exception for a bill to repeal the near-total ban. Democrats then won a procedural back-and-forth with Republicans opposed to the repeal after Sens. T.J. Shope (R-Coolidge), Shawnna Bolick (R-Phoenix) and Ken Bennett (R-Prescott) joined Democrats to block multiple motions by Sen. Anthony Kern (R-Glendale) to adjourn instead of introducing Hernandez’s bill.

April 19, 2024

In a letter to hospitals and medical providers, Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes laid out legal arguments for why she believes Arizona’s 1864 near-total abortion ban cannot take effect until June 8 or later.

April 22, 2024

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he’s preparing to introduce emergency legislation to state lawmakers that would offer Arizona abortion providers an expedited path to getting licensed there. Newsom told MSNBC that if the near-total ban on abortion in Arizona takes effect, California providers are bracing for an influx of patients.

April 23, 2024

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes is asking the state Supreme Court to reconsider its recent ruling that put a near-total abortion ban back into effect in the state. In a motion for reconsideration, the Attorney General's Office argues portions of the state Supreme Court’s April 9 opinion in the abortion laws case were erroneous.

April 24, 2024

Three Republican representatives joined all Democrats in the Arizona House of Representatives to pass a bill to repeal the state’s near-total abortion ban after weeks of stonewalling by GOP leaders. Reps. Matt Gress (R-Phoenix), Timothy Dunn (R-Yuma) and Justin Wilmeth (R-Phoenix) voted with Democrats to pass Tucson Democratic Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton’s House Bill 2677, which would repeal the near-total ban that was reinstated by the Arizona Supreme Court on April 9.

April 26, 2024

The state Supreme Court responded to a 32-page motion from Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes with a one-sentence decision to deny it.

The same day, Republicans in the Arizona House of Representatives filed ethics complaints against Assistant Minority Leader Oscar De Los Santos (D-Laveen) and Rep. Analise Ortiz (D-Phoenix), who engaged in a protest on the House floor two weeks ago after GOP lawmakers blocked a vote to repeal the state’s near-total abortion ban.

May 1, 2024

The Arizona Senate voted on Wednesday to repeal the Civil War-era near-total ban on abortion that had been recently revived by a court ruling. The repeal passed by a narrow margin — 16 ayes and 14 nays — with two Republicans joining Senate Democrats.

Hobbs abortion ban repeal
Katherine Davis-Young/KJZZ
Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs signs a bill to repeal the state's 160-year-old ban on most abortions on May 2, 2024.

May 2, 2024

Democratic Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs has relegated a Civil War-era ban on most abortions to the past by signing a repeal bill. Hobbs says the move is just the beginning of a fight to protect reproductive health care in Arizona. But the repeal may not take effect until 90 days after the end of the legislative session, in June or July. Abortion rights advocates hope a court will step in to prevent that outcome.

May 13, 2024

Arizona’s near-total abortion ban dating to 1864 can’t be enforced until September, following a state Supreme Court order. The delay increases the likelihood that the controversial law may never go back into effect.

May 23, 2024

California’s governor on Thursday signed an emergency law to allow Arizona doctors to come to the state to perform abortions for their patients. But Arizona abortion providers are unlikely to participate. Three Arizona abortion providers contacted by KJZZ said the new California law would be impractical both for patients and doctors.

July 3, 2024

The group Arizona for Abortion Access will have to submit valid signatures from at least 383,923 Arizona voters by July 3, 2024 to get their abortion rights measure onto Arizona ballots in the November 2024 general election. The proposed constitutional amendment would allow abortions up to the point of fetal viability — usually around 24 weeks. It would also allow exceptions later in pregnancy when health risks are involved. The proposed ballot measure would enshrine the right to abortion in Arizona’s constitution. It would allow abortions up to the point of fetal viability — around 24 weeks — with exceptions beyond that when health risks are involved.

More stories from KJZZ

Politics Abortion Health + MedicineLaw Enforcement