Arizona Supreme Court blocks enforcement of 1864 abortion ban

PHOENIX — The Arizona Supreme Court on Monday granted a request to delay enforcement of the state's nearly complete abortion ban dating back to 1864.

The court granted Democratic Attorney General Chris Mayes' request for an additional 90 days before enforcing the Civil War-era ban.

Even though Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs signed the ban into law on May 2, the measure may not take effect until 90 days after the state legislative session ends — and it's still in session. Monday's court order essentially limits the window in which the ban can be implemented, if it happens at all.

“I am grateful that the Arizona Supreme Court has granted a stay on enforcement of the 1864 law and granted our motion to stay the mandate in this case for the next 90 days,” Mayes said in a statement Monday. “

He also said his office would “consider the best legal steps to take from here,” which could include asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

Previously, Mayes' office had said the 1864 ban would go into effect June 27. The court's action Monday pushed it back to Sept. 26, his office said.

The enforcement date depends largely on when the state's legislative session ends. Last year, it ended on July 31. If lawmakers were to stick to that timeline, the ban could be in place for about a month from Sept. 26 to the end of October under the new projections. But it is still not clear when this year's session will end.

With enforcement delayed, the state is operating under a 15-week ban on abortion passed in 2022 — which was signed by then-Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican — that makes exceptions for medical emergencies. But not for rape or incest.

That law has prompted a coalition of reproductive rights organizations to try to get the constitutional amendment on the state ballot in November. This amendment will ensure the right to abortion through fetal viability and significantly expand the scope of exceptions.

The coalition, known as Arizona for Abortion Access, is on track to put a referendum on the ballot.

In a statement Monday, a spokesperson for the coalition said the state Supreme Court order does nothing to invalidate the 2022 law.

“With this order, yet another excessive restriction is imposed on Arizonans that penalizes patients experiencing pregnancy complications and survivors of rape and incest,” said spokesman Chris Love.

Abortion rights are on the ballot in more than a half-dozen states after Roe v. Wade is overturned in June 2022. Each time, abortion-rights advocates have won, including in red states like Kansas and Ohio.

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