Court date set for hearing on Arizona’s pre-statehood near abortion ban law

Aug 30, 2023, 3:49 PM | Updated: 5:21 pm

PHOENIX —  A date has been set for the Arizona Supreme Court to review a lower court’s conclusion that doctors can’t be prosecuted under a pre-statehood abortion law.

The hearing will be on Dec. 12 and the court will review a ruling that said doctors couldn’t be charged for performing abortions in the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. Under a 2022 law, a court ruled to allow doctors to provide abortion care in that 15-week time frame.

If the 1864 law is reinstated, it would impose a near-total ban on abortions. There would be no exceptions for rape or incest and abortions would only be allowed if a mother’s life is in danger under the 19th century law.

The Arizona Supreme Court will determine which of the two competing laws are state law, Barry Markson, legal analyst for KTAR News 92.3 FM, said.

“The Arizona Supreme Court is taking the appeal because the anti-abortion groups that supported the underlying lawsuit asked the Supreme Court to accept, review and the appeal. And they’ve done that here,” Markson said.

“So it is an interesting issue in Arizona law. I think we all realize the Supreme Court was likely to take it on. It’s trying to meld two separate laws together and the Supreme Court in Arizona will decide abortion law in Arizona, at least for most of 2024.”

Dr. Eric Hazelrigg, medical director of anti-abortion pregnancy centers in metro Phoenix filed an appeal with the Arizona Supreme Court to reverse the lower court’s decision.

In 2022, the United States Supreme Court issued the Dobbs decision which addressed whether the Constitution protects abortion rights. The court reviewed the constitutionality of Mississipi’s Gestational Age Act law which banned abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy except for medical emergencies and fetal abnormalities.

After review, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Mississippi law and overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey stating the Constitution does not protect the right to an abortion returning the issue to be regulated by the states.

Markson said there is no timetable on when the Arizona Supreme Court would issue a ruling after oral argument.

“It could be very quick. I anticipated would probably be sometime in January or February, but it’s up to the Supreme Court. They don’t have a timetable. They can do it whenever they want,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Court date set for hearing on Arizona’s pre-statehood near abortion ban law