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Arizona judge: State can enforce near-total abortion ban

PHOENIX — Arizona can enforce a near-total ban on abortions that have been stalled for nearly 50 years, a judge ruled on Friday, meaning clinics across the state will have to stop providing the procedures to avoid criminal charges against them. doctors and other medical workers.

An injunction has long blocked enforcement of a law, in effect since before Arizona became a state, that bans nearly all abortions. The only exemption is if the woman’s life is in danger.

The ruling also means people wanting an abortion will have to travel to another state to get one.

An appeal of the decision is likely.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson’s decision came more than a month after hearing arguments on Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s request to lift the injunction. It had been in place since shortly after the 1973 United States Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, that women had a constitutional right to abortion.

The high court overturned Roe on June 24 and said states could regulate abortion as they wished.

What is allowed in each state has changed as legislatures and courts have acted. Bans on abortion at any time during pregnancy are in place in 12 Republican-led states.

In another state, Wisconsin, clinics have stopped offering abortions amid litigation over whether an 1849 ban is in effect. Georgia bans abortions once fetal heart activity is detected, and Florida and Utah have bans that go into effect after 15 and 18 weeks of gestation, respectively.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s previous story follows below.

PHOENIX (AP) — A new Arizona law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy goes into effect Saturday as a judge weighs a request to allow enforcement of a pre-state law that bans the application of almost all abortions.

The 15-week law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by GOP Gov. Doug Ducey in March was signed into law in hopes that the U.S. Supreme Court would reduce limits on abortion regulations. This mirrored a Mississippi law the High Court was considering at the time that reduced the previous threshold by about nine weeks.

Instead, the conservative justices who hold a majority in court completely overruled Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that women have the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. Now states are allowed to make all abortions illegal, and a dozen have done so while others have enacted new limits.

Abortion haters celebrated the passing of the 15-week ban. Ducey, who signed every abortion restriction bill that came to his desk during his eight years in office, also applauded the 15-week ban.

“In Arizona, we know there is immeasurable value in every life — including prenatal life,” Ducey said in her March 30 signing letter. “I believe it is the responsibility of every state to protect them.”

The same day he signed the abortion ban, Ducey also approved legislation banning transgender women and girls from playing on women’s sports teams. It also comes into force on Saturday, along with most other laws passed this year.

Meanwhile, abortion providers are awaiting a decision from a Tucson judge who is considering a request from Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich to lift an injunction in place since just after Roe’s decision that blocked enforcement. pre-state.

Judge Kellie Johnson told a hearing last month that she would rule on September 20 at the earliest. Planned Parenthood and its Arizona affiliate had urged her not to allow the old law to be enforced against medical providers and instead allow the host of other abortion restrictions enacted since. Roe’s cancellation.

Ducey has a similar take. He argued that the 15-week ban he signed takes precedence over the old law, which was first enacted as part of the body of laws known as the ‘Howell Code’ adopted by the 1st Territorial Legislature of Arizona in 1864.

Despite his conflict with Brnovich over whether the new or old laws take precedence, Ducey did not send his in-house attorneys to defend his position at the August 19 hearing.

The 15-week law will only affect about 5% of abortions performed in the state, according to statistics from the previous three annual reports compiled by the Arizona Department of Health Services. The state averaged just under 13,000 abortions per year during this time.

But combined with a law passed last year that bans abortions because a fetus has a genetic abnormality such as Down syndrome, the restrictions add up, said Dr. DeShawn Taylor, who provides abortion services. at his clinic in Glendale.

“People forget that these percentages are real people,” Taylor said in an interview Tuesday. “Arizona’s population continues to grow…and that 5-10% represents a large number of people who otherwise either have to stay pregnant or find a way out of the state to get the care they need. .”

Taylor is an OB-GYN who runs Desert Star Family Planning, where she provides a full range of reproductive health care and is one of the few clinics to offer second-trimester abortions. Like virtually all abortion providers in the state, she stopped surgical and medical abortions after the Supreme Court ousted Roe.

Providers pointed to pre-statehood and a “personality” law that contains a provision prohibiting abortion for genetic reasons that they feared could result in prosecution for closure. But after a federal judge on July 11 blocked that provision because he said it was unconstitutionally vague, Taylor and other providers restarted services.

But it was difficult because her staff still feared prosecution, she said. A longtime nurse had quit before Roe was ousted because she was worried about the upcoming decision, Taylor said.

Her medical assistant also left, and another nurse who had assisted with abortions for three years was initially reluctant to resume the procedures for unfounded fears that she might face criminal charges.

“It took a while to convince this individual that I didn’t want to go to jail either,” Taylor said. “Why would I do something illegal and ask him to do the same?” »

In the end, the nurse agreed to help, but only for non-surgical abortions, Taylor said.

On Monday, Taylor said she had her last pre-abortion visit because she expected the decision to be released on Tuesday. Arizona requires at least a day’s ultrasound and consultation before an abortion is performed, and it didn’t want patients having to cancel a procedure.

After a turbulent summer, Taylor said Friday she’s closed her clinic for the rest of the month.

ABC News

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