Arizona’s reproductive policy remains uncertain following the overturn of Roe v. Wade as state lawmakers struggle to choose between two conflicting abortion laws in the books: one passed this year and another passed before Arizona’s statehood. This year, a ban on abortions after 15 weeks was passed by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed by Governor Doug Ducey – which gives no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. This coincides with a law from 1864, which bans abortion almost entirely, and mandates violators face a prison sentence of two to five years. On June 29, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich tweeted he would request to get an injunction lifted from the pre-statehood law.
The decision of which law should become the state’s pre-dominant abortion policy will likely be left up to the Arizona Supreme Court, however, experts like Valerie Hoekstra, an associate professor who specializes in constitutional law at the School of Politics and Global Studies, say it would make more sense for the 15 week ban to prevail as it was signed into law most recently. Despite this common-sense conclusion, a clause in the new 15-week ban states the law will not repeal the pre-statehood law or any other state law regulating abortion. According to officials, this clause will make state litigation more difficult and complicated.
As the debate continues over which policy will prevail, all abortion procedures from Arizona’s Planned Parenthood clinics have been canceled, and eight of the state’s nine licensed abortion providers have stopped providing abortions after the Supreme Court decision was released. Planned Parenthood, however, still offers a range of other reproductive services that Arizonans can access for the time being. “Everyone deserves the legal right and ability to access abortion, regardless of where they live, and we are hopeful that we will soon be able to block this law in court,” Planned Parenthood Arizona’s president and CEO, Brittany Fonteno announced. “But Planned Parenthood’s doors remain open to provide other essential sexual and reproductive health care services. We stand with you. Now, and always.”
State elections will play a significant role in the future of Arizona’s reproductive policies. Mark Brnovich, Arizona’s Attorney General, has been one of the strongest voices advocating for the enaction of the pre-statehood abortion ban, and is currently seeking election by the Republican primary for a seat in the U.S. Senate. There are several candidates also running this midterm election who do support reproductive rights in Arizona, but the state’s primary ballot may also include a state constitutional amendment that would give Arizonans the right to choose and preserve previously protected constitutional rights. A petition by Arizonans for Reproductive Freedom to include protections for reproductive rights has gotten over a million signatures so far. “People can support organizations like Planned Parenthood, people can contact their state legislative representatives, participate in demonstrations, vote in elections,” Hoekstra has said. “Maybe people might now start to recognize the importance of the federal judiciary and how it’s the President and the Senate that shape the outcome of these important policies.”