Doctors group asks court to make 15-week abortion ban the law in Arizona

Oct 4, 2022, 1:04 PM | Updated: 1:08 pm

PHOENIX — An Arizona doctors advocacy group has filed a lawsuit asking a court to rule that a new 15-week abortion ban applies statewide rather than a near-total ban that dates back more than a century.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, American Civil Liberties Union and law firm Perkins Coie submitted the complaint Monday in Maricopa County Superior Court on behalf of the Arizona Medical Association and Dr. Paul Isaacson.

The 15-week ban signed by Gov. Doug Ducey in March was scheduled to go into effect Sept. 24, but a day earlier a Pima County Superior Court judge ruled that a near-total ban that originated in 1864 could be enforced.

Abortion providers have ceased the procedure as the issue works its way through the courts.

“The state of Arizona has caused complete chaos by seeking to enforce clashing abortion bans, including one of the most extreme in the country,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a press release Tuesday.

“This has put Arizonans in an untenable situation. Providers and patients have no sense of what the law is and whether they are breaking it. The court must restore abortion access and put an end to this legal and public health crisis.”

Planned Parenthood of Arizona also has been trying to keep the near-total ban from going into effect, but a judge rejected their request for a stay last week.

Officials responsible for enforcing state laws, including Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Interim Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell, have been calling for clarification, either from the courts or the Legislature.

The near-total ban, which only allows abortions to save the mother’s life, remained on the books (13-3603 of the Arizona Revised Statutes) after Arizona became a state in 1912, but it couldn’t be enforced after the U.S. Supreme Court ensured abortion rights at the federal level in 1973.

However, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June of this year, between when the 15-week ban was signed and it was scheduled to go into effect.

The current confusion lies in the fact that the new legislation says it does not: “Repeal, by implication or otherwise, section 13-3603, Arizona Revised Statutes, or any other applicable state law regulating or restricting abortion.”

“A declaratory judgment is necessary to make clear that Arizona’s Territorial Law against providing abortions, now codified as A.R.S. § 13-3603, must be harmonized with the robust statutory scheme that the Legislature has enacted over the last 50 years to allow licensed physicians to provide abortion care subject to certain restrictions,” the new lawsuit says.

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Doctors group asks court to make 15-week abortion ban the law in Arizona