Arizona's Supreme Court Reinstates Century-Old Abortion Law

 April 9, 2024

In a move sending shockwaves across the United States, the Arizona Supreme Court has decided to enforce a law from the mid-19th century that restricts abortion rights severely. This historic verdict reverses a more lenient 15-week abortion limit enacted in 2022, putting the state at the center of a national debate.

Breitbart News reported that on a momentous Tuesday, the court concluded that Arizona's binding legislation is a statute from 1864, permitting abortions solely for saving the mother's life.

This old law prescribes two to five years of imprisonment for anyone performing abortions outside this exception. The recent ruling necessitated a dispute over whether this pre-existing law would be overridden by the 15-week limitation set just two years prior.

Court Declines to Rule on Abortion Policy, Cites Legal Boundaries

Justice John Lopez, authoring the majority's opinion, clarified that their decision rested solely on the interpretation of existing legal statutes, deliberately sidelining any moral or policy considerations regarding abortion.

Justice Lopez articulated this stance, specifying the court's approach to the controversial subject.

A policy matter of this gravity must ultimately be resolved by our citizens through the legislature or the initiative process. Today, we decline to make this weighty policy decision because such judgments are reserved for our citizens. Instead, we merely follow our limited constitutional role and duty to interpret the law as written.

The court's 4-2 decision, with one justice not participating, confirms the old law's supremacy over the 2022 legislation, though it did grant a 14-day reprieve before its full implementation.

This grace period is for the involved parties to consider their next steps. Moreover, this decision potentially sets the stage for further constitutional challenges in a trial court, leaving the door open for future legal arguments.

An Ebbing Tide Against Pro-Abortion Efforts

Pro-abortion activists have not stood idly by. In anticipation of a constitutional right to abortion in Arizona, efforts have been ramped up. A noteworthy coalition has gathered over a half-million signatures for a proposed amendment to safeguard abortion rights in the state's constitution.

This mobilization reflects a strong desire among many Arizonans to preserve abortion access amid tightening restrictions. The coalition, Arizona for Abortion Access, has brought together a diverse array of groups, including ACLU of Arizona, Affirm Sexual and Reproductive Health, Arizona List, Healthcare Rising Arizona, NARAL Arizona, and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona.

The legal journey leading to this contentious decision traces back to the enactment of the 1864 law, through the establishment of a 15-week abortion limit in March 2022, to the court's deliberations in December 2022. Finally, in April 2024, the ruling was made, defining a critical point in Arizona's legislative and cultural landscape.

Looking Ahead: The Battle Over Abortion Rights Continues

This landmark decision underscores the ongoing conflict surrounding abortion rights in the United States. By turning back the clock to enforce a law from 1864, the Arizona Supreme Court has starkly highlighted the divisiveness of this issue.

Justice Lopez emphasized that the court steered clear judgment based on personal morals or the law's constitutionality, focusing purely on statutory interpretation. The ruling leaves room for future constitutional challenges and shifts the responsibility of determining abortion policy back to Arizona's citizens, either through legislative action or the initiative process.

As Arizona braces for the implementation of this antique legislation, the efforts of pro-abortion activists aim to ensure the question of abortion rights remains a key agenda for voters come November. Whether through appeals, further legal challenges, or ballot initiatives, this ruling marks not the end but a new chapter in the struggle over reproductive rights in Arizona.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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