PHOENIX - The Arizona Supreme Court heard arguments on Dec. 12 over two conflicting abortion laws in the state before deciding which one should be the law.
It gave that decision back to the states, but confusion set in immediately in Arizona, a state with dueling abortion laws on the books.
One from 1864, a near-total ban. Another from 2022, allowing abortions up to 15 weeks.
"Arizona’s pre-Roe law was in effect on the day that Roe v. Wade was handed down on January 22, 1973. Now that Roe has been overturned and abortion is left to the states, in my view, the state law is good law," said Cathi Herrod, the president of the Center for Arizona Policy.
She's been an outspoken pro-life advocate for years, hoping the Arizona Supreme Court will decide to uphold the near-total ban from the state's territorial days.
In September 2022, a Pima County Superior Court Judge reinstated it, but an appellate court soon after blocked the enforcement of it.
The issue is now in the hands of the justices on the state's high court.
Planned Parenthood Arizona, an organization named in the case, is arguing against the near-total ban.
"These abortion bans not just affect individual lives and have huge impacts on individual lives, they really affect whole systems that work in our society. We know that abortion bans do not decrease abortion. They don't decrease the need for abortion or the actual number of abortions. They just make it much more difficult for patients to access the care that they need," Dr. Jill Gibson, Planned Parenthood Arizona's Chief Medical Officer said.
First day in court
The case in front of the Supreme Court is led by pro-life Arizona ob-gyn Dr. Eric Hazelrigg who wants the state to enforce an 1800s near-total abortion ban.
Planned Parenthood wants justices to agree with an appellate court ruling that the 2022 law enacting a 15-week ban should stay in effect.
Hazelrigg's attorney said both laws work together.
"Fit together, very straightforward. Up to 15 weeks, the termination must be life-saving and 15 weeks, it must not only be life-saving, but it needs to be immediately necessary to protect the mother," Jake Warner, attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, said.
Justices challenged that assumption.
"So I don't understand then how that law is not in conflict with the territorial ban," Justice Clint Bolick said.
The chief justice said the way that would be written in the criminal code would be unusual.
"Would have to figure out elsewhere that it's criminalized in a different statute. That's not the usual course of conduct," Chief Justice Robert M. Brutinel said.
Outside the courthouse, Warner was asked if he too thought it was "unusual."
He said he's confident that the court understands that Arizona is fully committed to protecting unborn life.
Planned Parenthood's attorney argued for the 15-week law.
"Here in this specific context of abortion and in the specific context of the 15-week law, the Arizona Legislature had said physicians can perform abortions up to 15 weeks long, and they cannot be prosecuted for that," Andy Gaona, attorney for Planned Parenthood, said.
They said the vagueness is because the legislature couldn't get the votes to make the law clearer.
Justices asked probing questions of both sides.
"It's very tough to find a case that is similar to this one in all of American juris," Justice Bolick said.
The ACLU has more information on Arizona's current abortion laws: https://www.acluaz.org/en/issues/abortion-arizona