Arizona Supreme Court delays enforcement of 1864 abortion ban through summer

Arizona’s 160-year-old near-total abortion ban will not take effect through the summer, the state’s Supreme Court said in an order on Monday – giving the attorney general 90 days to appeal the case.

The decision will pause the law’s enforcement until 12 August but, when combined with a separate stipulation, pushes the date back to 26 September.

The order arrived after Kristin Mayes, the state attorney general, asked the court to pause the law’s enforcement, giving her time to decide the best legal course of action. Among those options could be appealing to the US Supreme Court – possibly giving the highest court in the land another abortion case.

Ms Mayes said she was “grateful” the court awarded her request for a stay, saying she believes “the case was wrongly decided, and there are issues that merit additional judicial review”.

Last month, the state Supreme Court upheld the 1864 abortion ban in an unexpected decision. The ban, which was enacted before Arizona became a state, outlaws nearly all kinds of abortions and criminalises those who help a woman obtain an abortion.

The decision was met with outcry from Arizona citizens and people across the US. Democratic legislatures moved to repeal the strict abortion ban, successfully passing a repeal in the Arizona House of Representatives at the end of April.

Arizona Gov Katie Hobbs signs the repeal of the Civil War-era near-total abortion ban on 2 May 2024 (AP)
Arizona Gov Katie Hobbs signs the repeal of the Civil War-era near-total abortion ban on 2 May 2024 (AP)

Earlier this month, the Arizona Senate moved to pass the repeal, sending it to Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs’s desk for signing. However, the repeal cannot go into effect until 90 days after the legislative session ends.

Depending on when lawmakers finish the legislative session will depend on when the repeal can take effect.

The back-and-forth over the law has created a complicated and consuming situation about when and how the ban can be enforced.

Planned Parenthood of Arizona said they would continue providing abortions up to 15 weeks of pregnancy for the next several months. The Arizona legislature enacted a 15-week ban before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in 2021 – but failed to repeal the 1864 law beforehand.

While legal matters continue to play out in the courts, Arizona voters could be voting on a constitutional amendment in November that would enshrine the right to abortion up to 24 weeks.