Arizona Legislature Ends Session, Avoids Reinstating 1864 Abortion Ban

Image by: Los Angeles Times

People in Arizona were almost back in the 1800s.

If the Legislature hadn’t ended on time, a ban on abortions from the Civil War that was lifted in May would have gone back into effect on September 26.

It takes 90 days for new laws to go into effect after they were made. For that reason, the rule that lawmakers had just lifted would become law, even if only for a few days, unless they called a recess by June 28. As the budget standoff went on, the fear that lawmakers would miss the deadline grew. After a tough week, they finished their work all in one night on Saturday.

That Arizona had even a short time where abortion at any stage was illegal would have been “devastating,” said Athena Salman, who is in charge of Arizona Campaigns for Reproductive Freedom For All.

Salman, a former lawmaker, said, “People who have the money and time to plan can go out of state to get the health care they need.” “But for many people, this will just put them in dangerous situations that they wouldn’t have been in before.”

The possible gap, which was avoided when the Legislature ended, was caused by bad time.

Early in April, the right Arizona Supreme Court said that a law that was passed in 1864, 48 years before Arizona joined the union, that banned almost all abortions was once again in effect.

Anyone who gets an abortion or helps to provide one could go to jail for two to five years under that law.

In the 1973 case Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out these kinds of laws. That important decision was reversed by the court in Dobbs v. Jackson in June 2022.

The Legislature had banned abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy three months before. The law from the Civil War was not changed by the new rule. Protests broke out all over Arizona after the state’s Supreme Court decision to bring back the 1864 ban. Supporters of abortion rights have collected signatures to put an amendment to the state law that would protect abortion rights on the November ballot.

The GOP-controlled Legislature got rid of the 1864 ban two weeks after the state court’s decision, which caused a national uproar. Three Republicans in the House and two in the Senate voted with Democrats to get rid of the law.

On May 2, Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs signed the bill to get rid of it.

Abortion law status is still unknown, even though lawmakers are getting close to lifting the ban.

She said, “We should recommit to protecting women’s bodily autonomy, their right to choose their own health care, and their freedom to live their own lives.”

AbortionFinder and Planned Parenthood say that there are nine centers in Arizona that offer abortions. Six of them are in Maricopa County, two are in Pima County, and one is in Coconino County.

Democrat Bill Ring, the attorney general of Coconino County, said in April that prosecution would not happen because, “Prosecution under territorial law, with its history and traditions of 1864, asks too much of the modern-day prosecutor 160 years later.”

Cronkite News asked attorneys in other counties if they would bring charges against anyone if the 1864 law went into effect in the fall.

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said in a statement last week, before the case was over, “I will follow the law.”

Mitchell, a Republican who is running for re-election, told the public in April that women would not be charged with a crime for getting an abortion. Last week, a staff member gave more information: “Doctors should not fear prosecution.”

While the Dobbs decision was still being considered, the Tucson City Council told cops in 2022 that they should not arrest anyone for breaking any abortion laws that might become law.

Pima County Attorney Laura Conover, a Democrat who is also running for reelection, said on the phone last week, “I’m not going to waste valuable resources on prosecution.” “The leaders you have at the local level are very important.” Women across the whole state should be able to use their rights.

The sheriff and head of police in Pima County are lucky to have each other because they don’t plan to waste time and money looking into these complaints, she said.


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