PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona’s Republican attorney general asked a court Wednesday to lift an injunction blocking enforcement of a law that bans all abortions except when the mother’s life is at risk.
Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s filing asks a Tucson court to lift an existing order shortly after the US Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade in 1973 that abortions are a constitutional right.
The new conservative high court overturned that decision last month, leaving it back to the states to decide how to regulate abortions. Arizona’s near-total abortion ban has been on the books since at least 1901, and Brnovich said that with Roe overturned it should now be enforceable.
“We believe this is the best and most accurate state of the law,” Brnovich said in a statement. “We know this is an important issue for so many Arizonans, and our hope is that the court will bring clarity and consistency to our state.”
Brnovich, who is running for the US Senate, announced late last month that the long-standing abortion ban applied and that he would seek to have the injunction lifted.
Providers across the state halted abortions after the June 24 Supreme Court opinion, saying it was too risky to move forward with the old ban still in place and a 2021 law giving full rights to unborn children. born also in game.
A federal judge on Monday blocked that law after abortion rights groups successfully argued that it was unconstitutionally vague. The judge agreed that it was unclear what criminal laws abortion providers might be violating if they perform otherwise legal abortions.
Abortion rights groups criticized Brnovich for moving to once again allow enforcement of the pre-statehood ban.
“It is outrageous that the Arizona attorney general is trying to revive this long-stalled zombie law,” Gail Deady, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “The personal health decisions, lives and futures of Arizonans should not be dictated by a draconian century-old law.”
Deady said the high court’s decision to strike down Roe has caused “absolute chaos” in Arizona and other states with Republican legislatures that previously had unenforceable abortion restrictions on the books. Numerous court battles are underway to try to block “trigger laws” designed to ban abortion if Roe falls or oppose so-called “zombie laws” like the one in Arizona that predate Roe.
Arizona also has a 15-week ban that Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law in March, and has insisted it takes precedence over the outright ban Brnovich wants to enforce. But the 15-week prohibition law specifically said that it did not repeal the 1901 law.
In the attorney general’s court filing, Assistant Attorney General Beau Roysden III laid out the history of the court order that blocked the old abortion law.
That case began in 1971, two years before Roe was passed, when Planned Parenthood’s Tucson chapter, several doctors and a woman seeking an abortion sued to strike down the law. A Pima County Superior Court trial judge ruled the following year that a fetus has no constitutionally protected rights and that the law prohibiting abortion also violated the rights of doctors to practice medicine as they saw fit.
The Arizona Court of Appeals reversed that ruling, completely rejecting the lower court’s reasoning that the abortion ban was unconstitutional and saying it was enforceable.
“Appellees’ complaints against abortion statutes are peculiarly within the realm occupied by the Legislature and any issue related to abortion must be resolved by that body,” the appeals court ruling said. “We can only reiterate that we are not a super legislature.”
Less than three weeks later, the US Supreme Court ruled in Roe, and the appeals court reversed its earlier ruling. The law was then permanently blocked.
Roysden noted that “the Legislature, however, did not accept the declaration that these laws were unconstitutional, but instead took affirmative steps to ensure their continued validity in the event Roe were struck down.”
The Legislature re-enacted the pre-statehood ban in 1977, and this year said it was still on the books when they passed a ban on abortions after 15 weeks. The intent was to ensure that it would be enforceable if Roe v. Wade, according to Wednesday’s court filing.
Planned Parenthood Arizona President and CEO Brittany Fonteno said Brnovich’s action shows she is “out of touch” with the majority of Arizonans who support abortion rights. She said the group plans to fight her request in court. Fonteno noted that the Legislature over the past 50 years has passed numerous laws allowing doctors to perform abortions.
“As a result, we believe providers should still be able to deliver this essential health care to the thousands of Arizonans who need it annually,” Fonteno said in a statement.
A date has not yet been set to hear Brnovich’s request.