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Arizona Early-Term Abortion Services Resume as Courts Mull Laws

Oct. 27, 2022, 6:15 PM

Planned Parenthood Arizona will resume abortion services across the state while courts consider a near-total ban on terminating a pregnancy, the organization’s leaders said Thursday.

The announcement follows a state court of appeals stay on Arizona’s 1864 law that prohibits almost all abortions.

A separate agreement this week between abortion rights advocates and Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) to pause enforcement of the older law provides “additional reassurance” that the current 15-week cutoff will remain in place until a final court decision, Brittany Fonteno, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said.

“This is truly a pivotal moment for Arizonans who are now living in a post-Roe world,” she said.

Abortion providers in Arizona have stopped and started services in the months following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade. There has been uncertainty over which state law is in effect. Courts are weighing implementation of the near-total ban—passed before Arizona became a state—and a more recent law banning abortions after 15 weeks.

“We’ve been living in a real environment of fear,” Fonteno said. The stay on the stricter ban is part of a “long and uncertain” path to restoring abortion rights in Arizona, she said.

Planned Parenthood receives funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization founded by Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg Law is operated by entities controlled by Michael Bloomberg.

Not Just Courts

The confusion over Arizona’s abortion laws could increase with the upcoming election. Brnovich is leaving office after his failed bid for US Senate, so the job of defending and enforcing the state’s restrictions will fall to a new attorney general.

Democratic nominee Kris Mayes has vowed to not prosecute women or doctors who provide or receive abortion care. She says the right to privacy in Arizona’s constitution provides legal justification to protect abortion rights.

Republican nominee Abe Hamadeh says on his campaign website that he will “fight to protect the rights of our children at all stages, beginning at conception, and ensure that our laws to protect life are fully implemented.”

A new crop of state lawmakers could also use their policymaking power to influence which abortion law takes effect.

Democrats are using the issue to bolster their gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs in a tossup race, painting her as the last line of defense against restrictions.

The one thing that’s clear to everyone in the state is the likelihood of abortion access changing again. The Brnovich agreement puts enforcement of the 1864 law on hold for only 45 days after a final ruling on it, which is almost certainly going to come from the state Supreme Court.

“We have to be really clear and make no mistake that this is temporary. Abortion is temporarily legal in Arizona,” Fonteno said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brenna Goth in Phoenix at bgoth@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloombergindustry.com; Cheryl Saenz at csaenz@bloombergindustry.com