Arizona judge confirms 1901 anti-abortion law automatically triggered by end of Roe v. Wade is law

Arizona bans almost all abortions after re-enacting 1901 law automatically-triggered by end of Roe v. Wade: Only exception is for women whose life is put at risk by pregnancy

  • An Arizona Superior Court Judge ruled on Friday that a 1901 ban on abortions is now the law in the state regarding the procedure
  • Judge Kellie Johnson made the decision following a request from the state’s Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich
  • The law has exceptions where the mother’s life is in danger
  • Republican prosecutor for Maricopa County, the state’s most populous, said that she would use discretion when tasked with prosecuting victims of rape 

All abortions in Arizona are effectively banned after a judge ruled that a 1901 pre-statehood law banning the practice is now the law in the state. 

The ban is triggered thanks to the Supreme Court‘s vote to overturn Roe v Wade in June. It will go into effect as of September 24. 

The decision from Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson came more than a month after she heard arguments on Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s request to lift the injunction.

Johnson said in the ruling: ‘The court finds that because the legal basis for the judgment entered in 1973 has now been overruled, it must vacate the judgment in its entirety,’ according to KGUN.

Following the decision, Brnovich tweeted: ‘A Pima County judge lifted an injunction that was placed on AZ’s abortion statute. We applaud the court for upholding the will of the legislature and providing clarity and uniformity on this important issue. I have and will continue to protect the most vulnerable Arizonans.’ 

The Arizona Comstock Law, named for Christian activist Anthony Comstock, was codified in 1901, nearly 20 years before women were afforded the right to vote in the United States. 

Arizona Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson began hearing arguments on triggering the 1901 law in August

Arizona Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson began hearing arguments on triggering the 1901 law in August

All abortions in Arizona are effectively banned after a judge ruled that a 1901 pre-statehood law banning the practice is now the law in the state

All abortions in Arizona are effectively banned after a judge ruled that a 1901 pre-statehood law banning the practice is now the law in the state

Republican Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said that she would use discretion in prosecuting victims of rape and incest with regard to the new law. 

Mitchell said: ‘I don’t want to revictimize victim,’ according to KPNX’s Brahm Resnik.

An injunction has long blocked enforcement of a law, on the books since before Arizona became a state, that bans nearly all abortions. The only exemption is if the woman’s life is in jeopardy.

The ruling also means people seeking abortions will have to go to another state to obtain one. 

An appeal of the ruling is likely. The ruling may also effect the state’s tightly contested senate and governor’s races with the mid-term elections looming.   

It had been in place since shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in the Roe v. Wade case, which held that women had a constitutional right to abortion.

The high court overturned Roe on June 24 and said states can regulate abortion as they wish.

On June 30, Brnovich tweeted: ‘Our office has concluded the Legislature has made its intentions clear with regards to abortion laws.’

He added: ‘ARS 13-3603 (the pre-statehood law) is back in effect and will not be repealed.’ 

What’s allowed in each state has shifted as legislatures and courts have acted. Bans on abortion at any point in pregnancy are in place in 12 Republican-led states.

In another state, Wisconsin, clinics have stopped providing abortions amid litigation over whether an 1849 ban is in effect. Georgia bans abortions once fetal cardiac activity and be detected and Florida and Utah have bans that kick in after 15 and 18 weeks gestation, respectively. 

This is developing story. Please check back for updates.

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