Maricopa County attorney says court ruling didn’t resolve Arizona abortion law

Sep 27, 2022, 3:00 PM

PHOENIX – Maricopa County’s top prosecutor said Tuesday that last week’s court ruling on abortion didn’t resolve the issue of what the law actually is in Arizona.

In a video posted to social media, Interim County Attorney Rachel Mitchell went on to say her office wouldn’t prosecute any abortion cases, if brought, without further judicial guidance.

She said there haven’t yet been any abortion-related cases submitted since a judge ruled Friday that Arizona can enforce a near-total ban that had been blocked for nearly 50 years.

“In the event we do receive a submittal, if further guidance has not been provided by the courts or the Legislature by that time, my office will seek guidance from the court before taking any action,” she said.

“This will be needed before a decision can be made on the case.”

Until Friday’s ruling, an injunction had blocked enforcement of a law on the books since before Arizona became a state that bans nearly all abortions. The only exemption is if the woman’s life is in jeopardy.

Planned Parenthood said it plans to appeal the ruling and has asked the court to keep the injunction in place for now.

States were given authority over abortion laws in June when the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the longstanding precedent set by Roe v. Wade, which ensured abortion rights at the federal level.

The Arizona Legislature had recently passed a bill that bans abortions after 15 weeks of gestation, which was scheduled to go into effect Saturday, but the language of the statue also says it does not repeal the near-total ban that originated in 1864 and has remained on the books with minor alterations.

As a result, Arizona officials remain confused about which law now applies: the near-total ban that Attorney General Mark Brnovich said is in effect or the 15-week ban that Gov. Doug Ducey said takes precedence.

“Friday’s Pima County Superior Court decision regarding abortion and the subsequent appeal have not resolved which law among conflicting statutes now applies,” Mitchell said.

One thing the competing bans have in common is that the punishments are directed at abortion providers, not the patients.

“I will not prosecute women for having abortions,” Mitchell said. “And no statute even suggests a woman will ever be prosecuted for her decision.”

Mitchell, a Republican, is running to retain the seat to which she was appointed in April. Her opponent in the Nov. 8 general election, Democrat Julie Gunnigle, has said she won’t enforce any abortion restrictions if elected.

“Julie has been unequivocal that she will never use the resources of the County Attorney’s Office to go after pregnant people, their health care workers or their support networks. Not now, not ever,” her website says.

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Maricopa County attorney says court ruling didn’t resolve Arizona abortion law