Arizona judge rejects attempt to negate law protecting nearly all preborn children

pregnancy center, ultrasound, abortion, abortion pill

UPDATE, 10/3/22: Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson rejected a request from Planned Parenthood to block the 1864 law protecting nearly all preborn children from abortion. “It is impermissible that Arizonans are waking up each morning to their elected officials making conflicting statements about which laws are in effect or claiming that they do not know, and yet the court has refused to provide any clarity or relief,” Brittany Fonteno, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said in a statement.

Yet Johnson responded that it was the job of legislators, not judges, to reconcile the laws. While she did agree that the conflict should be address, she wrote that “interpretation and interplay of Arizona’s abortion statutes should be addressed in a new lawsuit” instead.

UPDATE, 9/28/22: Planned Parenthood Arizona has asked Pina County Court Judge Kellie Johnson to put on hold her recent ruling that allowed Arizona’s law protecting preborn children from abortion to take effect while it files an appeal. The abortion giant’s attorneys argue that the law, which was enacted in 1864, conflicts with a more recent law passed to restrict abortions to the first 15 weeks of pregnancy.

“This confusion has forced Planned Parenthood Arizona to pause abortion services and cancel appointments scheduled this week – meaning that members of our community once again have been and will continue to be denied medical care that they deserve and need while this decision is in effect,” Brittany Fonteno, the group’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

Putting the ruling on hold would allow abortions to resume in Arizona indefinitely as court cases can take years.

9/25/22: The injunction against an Arizona law protecting almost all preborn children from abortion has been lifted. Abortion is now illegal in virtually all circumstances, unless the mother’s life is deemed to be at risk.

An 1864 law originally protected preborn children from abortion, but with the fall of Roe v. Wade, there was confusion surrounding the law’s status. Earlier this year, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed Senate Bill 1164 into law, which protected preborn children from abortion beginning at 15 weeks; though this specifically did not repeal the older law, there was no trigger in place to repeal the 15-week law once Roe was overturned.

This week, Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson ruled that the older law takes precedence over the newer law, particularly with the fall of Roe. Attorney General Mark Brnovich had asked the court to lift the injunction against the law after the Supreme Court released their decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June, while Planned Parenthood had argued that the court should equally consider all laws regarding abortion passed since 1973, and pass a modified injunction. But Johnson disagreed with the abortion giant.

READ: Roe is overturned, but preborn humans still don’t have equal protection under the law

“The Court finds that because the legal basis for the judgment entered in 1973 has not been overruled, it must vacate the judgment in its entirety,” Johnson wrote. “The Court finds an attempt to reconcile fifty years of legislative activity procedurally improper in the context of the motion and record before it. While there may be legal questions the parties seek to resolve regard Arizona statutes on abortion, those questions are not for this Court to decide here.”

In a statement, Brnovich praised the ruling as a victory for life. “We applaud the court for upholding the will of the legislature and providing clarity and uniformity on this important issue,” he said. “I have and will continue to protect the most vulnerable Arizonans.”

The White House, meanwhile, slammed the ruling. “If this decision stands, health care providers would face imprisonment of up to five years for fulfilling their duty of care; survivors of rape and incest would be forced to bear the children of their assaulters; and women with medical conditions would face dire health risks,” a statement from Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “Make no mistake: this backwards decision exemplifies the disturbing trend across the country of Republican officials at the local and national level dead-set on stripping women of their rights, including through Senator Graham’s proposed national abortion ban.” Jean-Pierre appeared to be referring to Graham’s proposal of a federal abortion limitation after 15 weeks gestation.

Yet Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, celebrated the ruling, and vowed that Arizona will care for both women and their children.

“Most abortions are now illegal in Arizona, shifting the focus to caring for women facing unplanned pregnancies,” she said in a statement. “Judge Kellie Johnson’s ruling today upholding the law that was in effect in 1973 when Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided will protect unborn babies and their mothers. And nearly 50 pregnancy resource centers throughout the state stand ready to ensure no woman stands alone.”

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