Arizona's 1864 anti-abortion law is not dead yet

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the 21st century … we’re reminded that there are still those in Arizona who are intent in wheeling out the time machine and sending the state’s female population back to an era when the inhabitants of our majestic desert paradise did not possess indoor plumbing, when there were no telephones, no automobiles and no air conditioning.

A time when there was no state of Arizona, just a territory.

A time when the status of women was only slightly above chattel, when they were expected only to be mothers and housekeepers, except perhaps for an odd job sewing, washing, cleaning houses or doing laundry in order to supplement the family income.

A time when women could not vote.

A time, most importantly, when abortion was outlawed.

1864.

AG Brnovich said the law was in effect

Abortion rights demonstrators gather at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix on Sept. 24, 2022, to voice concerns with the recent ruling by a Pima County judge that reinstated an over century-year-old ban on abortion in almost all cases.
Abortion rights demonstrators gather at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix on Sept. 24, 2022, to voice concerns with the recent ruling by a Pima County judge that reinstated an over century-year-old ban on abortion in almost all cases.

Attorneys for Planned Parenthood Arizona will be at the state Court of Appeals on Wednesday to argue against a 19th century territorial anti-abortion law – never rescinded – that offers no exceptions for rape or incest and says anyone who provides abortion services or facilitates the means to do so will receive two to five years in prison.

After the U.S. Supreme Court rescinded Roe v. Wade, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said that the old law was in effect. Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson agreed with him.

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The state Court of Appeals later paused the 19th century ban pending the outcome of an appeal to Johnson’s decision. The case is headed, ultimately, to the Arizona Supreme Court. In the meantime, Arizona’s nine licensed abortion clinics remain open.

90% of Arizona residents disagree

After the Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the old law, State Rep. Athena Salman issued a statement saying in part, “This violates what the vast majority of Arizonans want. For years I have introduced legislation to repeal this antiquated law, only to have the bill shelved by the extremists controlling the legislature. We deserve better.”

A poll taken after the initial judge’s ruling on the 1864 law found that roughly 90% of Arizona residents believe in some form of legal abortion.

The poll also found that 68% of women said a candidate’s stand on abortion would be “very” or “somewhat” important when it came to their voting decisions.

The election of Katie Hobbs, a strong advocate of reproductive rights, seems to bear out that statistic. Something that anti-abortion zealots, including Republicans like Kari Lake and Blake Masters, didn’t recognize.

It apparently was lost on them that, unlike the dark days of the 19th century, women now have the right to vote.

Reach Montini at ed.montini@arizonarepublic.com.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona's 1864 abortion law is not dead yet, even if few want it