Arizona’s high court is allowing the attorney general 90 more days on her abortion ban strategy

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona’s highest court on Monday gave the state’s attorney general another 90 days to decide further legal action in the case over a 160-year-old near-total ban on abortion that lawmakers recently voted to repeal.

The Arizona Supreme Court’s order leaves in place for now a more recent law that legalizes abortion up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. It also allows Attorney General Kris Mayes more time to decide whether to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mayes expressed gratitude for the order, and said the earliest the 1864 law can now take effect is Sept. 26, counting the 90 days just granted, plus another 45 days stipulated in a separate case.

"I will do everything I can to ensure that doctors can provide medical care for their patients according to their best judgment, not the beliefs of the men elected to the territorial legislature 160 years ago," Mayes said.

Arizona’s Supreme Court in April voted to restore the older law that provided no exceptions for rape or incest and allows abortions only if the mother’s life is in jeopardy. The majority opinion suggested doctors could be prosecuted and sentenced to up to five years in prison if convicted.

The Legislature then voted narrowly to repeal the Civil War-era law, but the repeal won’t take effect until 90 days after lawmakers wrap up their current annual session. It has been unclear if there would be a period the older ban could be enforced before the repeal took hold.

The anti-abortion group defending the ban, Alliance Defending Freedom, said that it would keep fighting despite the latest delay.

"Arizona’s pro-life law has protected unborn children for over 100 years," said the group’s senior counsel Jake Warner. "We will continue working to protect unborn children and promote real support and health care for Arizona families."

Planned Parenthood Arizona CEO Angela Florez welcomed the move. She said the organization "will continue to provide abortion care through 15 weeks of pregnancy and we remain focused on ensuring patients have access to abortion care for as long as legally possible."

Arizona for Abortion Access released a statement on this ruling, saying:

"Another day, another ruling, another example of why we must pass the Arizona Abortion Access Act. With this order, Arizonans are still subjected to another extreme ban, one that punishes patients experiencing pregnancy complications and survivors of rape and incest. Arizonans deserve to know our rights are ensured and protected, not constantly in flux based on the whims of politicians or the outcomes of endless lawsuits. Only the Arizona Abortion Access restores and protects Arizona’s right to access abortion care once and for all, and that’s why Arizona voters will turn out to support it in November."

Near-total ban can trace roots back to the 19th century


(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joseph Barron)

The law known as A.R.S. 13-3603 can trace its roots back to 1864, a time when Arizona was not even a U.S. state.

A.R.S. 13-3603 states:

"A person who provides, supplies or administers to a pregnant woman, or procures such woman to take any medicine, drugs or substance, or uses or employs any instrument or other means whatever, with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage of such woman, unless it is necessary to save her life, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than two years nor more than five years."

A.R.S. 13-3603's repeal means that a statute banning the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy would become Arizona’s prevailing abortion law, when the repeal bill officially takes effect.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.