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Arizona appeals court reinstates injunction blocking abortion ban

The ruling means that abortions can again take place in Arizona, unless the state Supreme Court intervenes.
Protesters gather outside the Capitol to voice their dissent with an abortion ruling, in Phoenix, on Sept. 23, 2022. An Arizona judge ruled the state can enforce a near-total ban on abortions that has been blocked for nearly 50 years. The law was first enacted decades before Arizona became a state in 1912.
Protesters gather outside the Capitol to voice their dissent with an abortion ruling, in Phoenix, on Sept. 23, 2022.Matt York / AP file
/ Source: Associated Press

PHOENIX — The Arizona Court of Appeals on Friday blocked a trial court’s decision that allowed immediate enforcement of a pre-statehood law that criminalizes nearly all abortions.

The ruling means that abortions can again take place in Arizona, at least for now, unless the state Supreme Court steps in.

The three-judge panel agreed with Planned Parenthood that the judge should not have lifted the decades-old order blocking its enforcement.

The brief order written by Presiding Judge Peter J. Eckerstrom said Planned Parenthood and its Arizona affiliate had shown they are likely to prevail on an appeal of a decision by the judge in Tucson to allow enforcement of the old law. They said the judge should have considered a host of laws restricting abortions passed since the original injunction was put in place following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that said women have a constitutional right to an abortion.

Those laws include a new one blocking abortions after 15 weeks’ pregnancy that took effect last month.

The Supreme Court overruled Roe in June, and Republican Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich then asked that the injunction blocking enforcement of the pre-statehood abortion be lifted. Pima Court Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson agreed on Sept. 23 and lifted the order two weeks ago.

Providers across the state stopped abortions after the U.S. Supreme Court decision, but many restarted procedures in mid-summer. That came after a federal judge blocked a separate “personhood” law they worried would allow criminal charges against doctors and nurses. They halted again after Johnson’s ruling.

The appeals court said the trial court erred by limiting its analysis only to the attorney general’s request to lift the injunction issued after Roe was handed down and refusing to consider the later laws passed by the Legislature to regulate abortion.

“Arizona courts have a responsibility to attempt to harmonize all of this state’s relevant statutes,” Eckerstrom wrote, mirroring arguments made by attorneys for Planned Parenthood.

The appeals court set a hearing for next week to consider whether to set an expedited schedule for hearing Planned Parenthood’s full appeal.