Arizona’s Supreme Court ruled that a 160-year-old abortion ban can be enforced. Here's what the ruling means.

A protester outside the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix.
A protester outside the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix on Sept. 23, 2022 (Matt York/AP)

On Tuesday, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled to ban abortions except in the case where it would save a mother’s life, creating a path to prison for providers. Critics call the ruling, which upholds an 1864 law, a blow to reproductive rights in a state that already enforced a 15-week abortion ban after Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022.

Here’s what the ruling could mean for women in the state.

In a 4-2 decision, Arizona’s high court upheld a law called the “Howell code” that had been enforced nearly 50 years before Arizona became a state.

“Physicians are now on notice that all abortions, except those necessary to save a woman’s life, are illegal,” wrote Justice John R. Lopez IV in the court's majority opinion. “Additional criminal and regulatory sanctions may apply to abortions performed after fifteen weeks’ gestation.”

The ruling also mandated that “anyone aiding an abortion” would receive two to five years in prison.

In allowing the near-total abortion ban to take effect, the justices took the side of abortion rights opponents Eric Hazelrigg, an obstetrician, and Dennis McGrane, a county prosecutor. In opening arguments in December, they claimed Arizona should revert to the 160-year-old ban.

The court rejected arguments from abortion advocates, including Planned Parenthood of Arizona, which asked the court to uphold the state’s 2022 law that allowed abortions up to 15 weeks.

Arizona's Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes called the ruling “unconscionable and an affront to freedom” in a written statement and assured citizens that her office wouldn’t enforce the law.

“Make no mistake, by effectively striking down a law passed this century and replacing it with one from 160 years ago, the Court has risked the health and lives of Arizonans,” Mayes said. “Let me be completely clear, as long as I am Attorney General, no woman or doctor will be prosecuted under this draconian law in this state.”

Arizona’s Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs called for the Republican-controlled legislature to repeal the ban.

“We are 14 days away from this extreme ban coming back to life,” Hobbs said at a press conference. “It must be repealed immediately.”

Arizona Supreme Court justices on the bench.
Arizona Supreme Court justices from left; William G. Montgomery, John R. Lopez IV, Vice Chief Justice Ann A. Scott Timmer, Chief Justice Robert M. Brutinel, Clint Bolick and James Beene on April 20, 2021, in Phoenix. (Matt York/AP)

The abortion ban will officially go into effect 14 days from Tuesday.

During the 14-day hold, the court will send the case back to the lower trial court to weigh “remaining constitutional challenges,” including to the law to decide how to move forward.

The lower court could also request a longer pause to enforce the law if those challenges are unresolved.

Both Republicans and Democrats have criticized the ruling, which would make the battleground state’s ban one of the strictest in the nation ahead of an election where abortion is a key issue for many Americans.

Kari Lake, a Republican candidate for Arizona Senate who has called abortion “the ultimate sin,” revealed in a statement that she opposed the ruling.

“I am the only woman and mother in this race,” the statement read. “I understand the fear and anxiety of pregnancy, and the joy of motherhood. I wholeheartedly agree with President Trump — this is a very personal issue that should be determined by each individual state and her people.”

Lake added that she would also oppose federal funding and bans on abortion if she is elected as Arizona senator in November.

However, in 2022, when Lake was running for governor of Arizona, she said that the 1864 law was “a great law that’s already on the books,” according to the Associated Press.

Former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who called the 15-week abortion ban bill that he signed a “thoughtful conservative policy,” expressed on X that the ruling was not his “preferred” outcome.

“I call on our elected leaders to heed the will of the people and address this issue with a policy that is workable and reflective of our electorate,” Ducey said in the post.

Arizona Congressman David Schweikert also used X to say he did not support the court’s ruling.

“This issue should be decided by Arizonans, not legislated from the bench. I encourage the state legislature to address this issue immediately,” the post said.

President Biden slammed the law as part of an “extreme agenda of Republican elected officials who are committed to ripping away women’s freedom.”

Arizona’s Democratic State Sen. Eva Burch, who recently had an abortion after learning her pregnancy wasn't viable, also responded to the ruling.

“This is outrageous that we would even dignify the consideration of this type of ban,” Burch said in an emotional speech. “This isn’t what the people of Arizona or this country wants. … Republicans don’t want this. Independents don’t want this. Democrats don’t want this.”