The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled Friday that it would not prosecute doctors who perform an abortion under an 1864 law prohibiting the procedure. The legislation in question predates the state’s establishment.
The court, however, did not repeal the law which reportedly carried a sentence ranging from two to five years in prison, but was hailed by abortion activists as a clarifying move given Arizona’s existing patchwork of legislation Associated Press writes.
“The statutes, read together, make clear that physicians are permitted to perform abortions as regulated,” the Court of Appeals wrote in a statement. “[T]he legislature has created a complex regulatory scheme to achieve its intent to restrict—but not to eliminate—elective abortions.”
Arizona Planned Parenthood president Brittany Fonteno, the state’s largest provider of abortions in the state according to the AP, greeted the ruling.
“Let me be crystal clear that today is a good day…The Arizona Court of Appeals has given us the clarity that Planned Parenthood Arizona has been seeking for months: When provided by licensed physicians in compliance with Arizona’s other laws and regulations, abortion through 15 weeks will remain legal,” Fonteno told the AP.
Arizona joined a host of Republican-led states that decided to preempt the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade earlier this year by passing state-level measures restricting abortions. In March, Arizona passed through its Republican-controlled state legislature a policy barring abortions after 15 weeks apart from medical emergencies without any special exemptions for rape or incest.
“In Arizona, we know there is immeasurable value in every life – including preborn life. . . . I believe it is each state’s responsibility to protect them,” Republican governor Doug Ducey wrote at the time.
Similar initiatives were instituted in Florida, Kentucky, and Mississippi.
However, the state’s incoming Democratic governor, Katie Hobbs, condemned Arizona’s Court of Appeals for preserving the 15-week abortion prohibition, writing in a statement: “The decision to have a child should rest solely between a woman and her doctor, not the government or politicians.”
Arizona’s newly-elected Democratic attorney general, Kris Mayes, echoed the sentiment, asserting she would “continue to fight for reproductive freedom,” the New York Times reports. Mayes won a recount vote Thursday over the Trump-back Abraham Hamadeh by 280 votes out of roughly 2.5 million ballots.