Arizona Supreme Court Upholds Law Protecting Life Throughout Pregnancy

The 1864 law allows for exceptions in cases in which the mother’s life is in danger but does not grant exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

State Supreme Court Building in Phoenix Ariz.
State Supreme Court Building in Phoenix Ariz. (photo: Dennis MacDonald / Shutterstock)

The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that a law protecting unborn life from abortion beginning at conception can soon take effect. 

The court ruled that state law does not guarantee a right to an abortion and that an 1864 law prohibiting all abortions can take effect in 14 days, pending any further constitutional challenges.

The 1864 law allows for exceptions in cases in which the mother’s life is in danger but does not grant exceptions for cases of rape or incest. 

The 4-2 decision issued Tuesday found that the Arizona Constitution “does not create a right to, or otherwise provide independent statutory authority” for abortion and that any guarantees to a right to abortion in the state were predicated on the now overturned Roe v. Wade precedent.

“To date, our Legislature has never affirmatively created a right to, or independently authorized, elective abortion. We defer, as we are constitutionally obligated to do, to the Legislature’s judgment, which is accountable to, and thus reflects, the mutable will of our citizens,” the ruling said.

“The Legislature has demonstrated its consistent design to restrict elective abortion to the degree permitted by the Supremacy Clause and an unwavering intent since 1864 to proscribe elective abortions absent a federal constitutional right.”

The decision negates a lower court’s ruling that a 15-week abortion limit passed by the Legislature in 2022 voided the 1864 law. 

There is a 14-day stay on the enforcement of the law.

This means that the law protecting life from conception remains blocked for now but could go into effect in a few weeks.

A new constitutional amendment guaranteeing a right to abortion will likely be on the ballot in Arizona this November. Arizona for Abortion Access PAC has filed language with the Secretary of State that could result in a vote on abortion in 2024. On April 3, the group surpassed the required number of signatures to get their initiative on the November ballot. The secretary of state’s office has yet to verify the signatures which must happen before the initiative will officially be on the ballot.

If this abortion amendment passes it would likely overrule today’s decision, invalidating most of the state’s pro-life laws.

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