Clinics vow to continue providing abortions, but unsure for how much longer

Planned Parenthood of Arizona said this week that it will continue providing abortion services “for a short period of time,” after the Arizona Supreme Court reinstated a near-total ban on abortions. That ruling is currently on hold, but could take effect within weeks. (File photo by Troy Hill/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – One day after the Arizona Supreme Court resurrected a law that makes it a felony to perform an abortion, clinics around the state said they will continue offering care even as they scramble to figure out how long they can do so.

The court ruled Tuesday that an 1864 law banning abortions in all cases except to save the life of the mother is still in effect, overriding a 2022 law that allowed abortions up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. But the justices put the ruling on hold to allow for legal challenges in lower courts – a delay that different groups have said could be 14 days or two months.

“We have to talk to attorneys,” said Dr. Ronald Yunis of the Acacia Women’s Clinic about the amount of time the clinic has to continue providing abortions. “I spoke with the attorney general yesterday, and she said the law goes into effect in 10 days.”

Officials with Planned Parenthood Arizona, which operates seven clinics around the state, said in a statement Tuesday that they plan to continue providing abortions while the reinstated 19th century law is on hold. During that time, the 15-week abortion law will remain in effect.

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“While today’s (Tuesday’s) ruling makes clear that the near-total ban on abortion will be enforced, it is important to note that abortion is still accessible in Arizona for a limited period of time,” said a statement from Planned Parenthood. “Despite today’s ruling, Planned Parenthood Arizona will continue to provide abortion services through 15 weeks for a short period of time.”

In published reports, officials said their next step would be to work with neighboring states to help patients cross state lines for abortion procedures. News reports said that Planned Parenthood organizations in neighboring states are bracing for an influx of patients from Arizona seeking to safely and legally obtain the procedure.

The 1864 law had been on hold for almost 50 years, after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, recognizing right to an abortion nationwide. But when the court overturned Roe in 2022, the 19th century law was still on the books in Arizona.

Also on the books was the 15-week ban, which state lawmakers had approved shortly before Roe was overtuned.

With two laws in effect, abortion opponents sued to have the 1864 law enforced, and the Arizona Supreme Court agreed with them Tuesday, ending two years of legal fights.

The 19th century law makes it felony to provide an abortion, except when it’s done to save the life of the mother. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.

But even if the old law takes effect, Attorney General Kris Mayes has said her office will not prosecute any provider for performing an abortion. That was reinforced by an executive order issued by Gov. Katie Hobbs last June, giving Mayes sole authority over abortion-related prosecutions.

Some county attorneys have challenged that order, but Mayes said she will not charge anyone under Arizona Supreme Court ruling that she called “unconscionable and an affront to freedom.”

The “decision to re-impose a law from a time when Arizona wasn’t a state, the Civil War was still raging, and women could not vote will go down in history as a stain on our state,” Mayes said Tuesday.

Sadie Buggle(she/her/hers)
News Reporter, Phoenix

Sadie Buggle expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication. She works as the managing editor of Arizona State University’s independent news organization, The State Press.

News Reporter, Phoenix

Martin Dreyfuss expects to graduate in December 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication. Dreyfuss is a published journalist and poet, with experience in social media, play-by-play, management and content creation. He began working at age 10, when he began building his work ethic and professional experience in restaurants, sales and esports organization management.