Arizona Appeals Court Rules Abortion Legal up to 15 Weeks

AP Photo/Paul Beaty

States across the country have been seeking to eke out their own laws on the practice of abortion, after the United States Supreme Court overturned Casey and Roe. We previously reported on the inconsistency between several different laws in Arizona on abortion, culminating in something of a power struggle between the state’s Republican attorney general, Mark Brnovich, and governor, Doug Ducey.


Now, it appears–at least for the moment–that there’s clarity on what the law is in the state, with an appeals court ruling late Friday.

The Arizona Republic:

Arizona appeals court judges on Friday ruled that abortions performed in the state by licensed physicians are legal up to 15 weeks of gestation despite a 19th-century, near-total abortion ban.

The ruling from the three-member panel from the southern division of the Arizona Court of Appeals clears up months of uncertainty over the legality of abortion in Arizona by stating that physicians who perform abortions under a new law that permits them up to 15 weeks of gestation are not subject to prosecution under the territorial-era near-total abortion ban.

Abortion law in the state had been in flux following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 decision to eliminate the constitutional right to an abortion and leave the issue up to states, though both medication and surgical abortions have been legally occurring in Arizona up until 15 weeks of gestation since October, pending the appeals court decision, which was sought by Planned Parenthood Arizona.

The 15-week law came through the Arizona legislature’s passage (and Ducey’s signing) of legislation earlier in 2022.


….[A] law passed by the Arizona Legislature that took effect in late September bans abortions after 15 weeks of gestation “absent a medical emergency” with no exceptions for rape or incest. Physicians who violate the 15-week law face a class six felony under Arizona law.

But when SCOTUS made its ruling, many pro-life conservatives, including Brnovich, had hoped an earlier, 19th-century law would go back in effect, which would ban abortions except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger.

The appellate judges did not throw out the 19th-century law but instead found that the 19th-century statute and the 15-week law are not in conflict. Rather, they “can be reconciled such that physicians are permitted to perform abortions in compliance” with the 15-week law and not be prosecuted under the territorial-era law, the ruling said.

Though Arizonans now have some clarity on abortion, this might not be the final word on the case, according to a statement from state conservative group Center for Arizona Policy:

Cathi Herrod, president of the conservative Center for Arizona Policy, issued a statement Friday that predicted the case would end up with the Arizona Supreme Court. The Center for Arizona Policy was not a party in the case.

“The fight to protect unborn life and women from the harms of abortion does not end with an Arizona Court of Appeals ruling,” Herrod’s statement said. “I am confident Arizona’s pre-Roe law limiting abortion to cases where the mother’s life is at risk will be upheld by Arizona’s Supreme Court.”


The case for life in the Copper state will have to be carried forward by groups and individuals, at least in the short term: Arizona’s newly elected, Democrat attorney general, Kris Mayes, is staunchy pro-abortion.


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