Special to the Vanguard
Tucson, AZ – This week, an Arizona physician and the Arizona Medical Association filed a lawsuit in state court, asking the court to allow abortion care to resume through 15 weeks of pregnancy. The lawsuit seeks to clarify doctors’ obligations under Arizona’s multiple overlapping abortion laws.
The challenge comes a week after another court allowed a 150-year-old criminal abortion ban to take effect. The century-old law is one of the most extreme abortion bans in the country, with no exceptions for rape, incest, or threats to a pregnant person’s health. Within a day of this ban being reinstated, a separate law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy—which was passed in March—took effect.
In the lawsuit, abortion providers argue that there is no clarity over which state laws govern the provision of abortion care in Arizona, including how the total abortion ban tracing back to 1864 interacts with other abortion laws on the books, such as the most recent state law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The state has dozens of conflicting abortion laws in effect, causing uncertainty and confusion over how the laws work in conjunction and in practice. The lawsuit asks the court to clarify Arizona’s numerous abortion laws and argues that physicians should be allowed to provide abortion care in the state through 15 weeks of pregnancy in accordance with state law.
The 15-week ban was signed into law in March 2022 by Gov. Doug Ducey in anticipation that the U.S. Supreme Court would uphold a similar Mississippi law in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Just weeks after the Supreme Court upheld the Mississippi law and overturned Roe v. Wade, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked a state court to allow enforcement of the Civil War-era ban. However, some state officials have argued that the 15-week law supersedes the century-old law.
“The state of Arizona has caused complete chaos by seeking to enforce clashing abortion bans, including one of the most extreme in the country,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “This has put Arizonans in an untenable situation. Providers and patients have no sense of what the law is and whether they are breaking it. The court must restore abortion access and put an end to this legal and public health crisis.”
“The confusing web of abortion laws in Arizona has allowed a 150-year-old law to push life-saving care out of reach for countless people. It’s horrific that such an outdated law has been weaponized to deny women and people seeking an abortion the right to make deeply personal medical decisions and force pregnancy on them,” said Rebecca Chan, staff attorney on the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “We hope the court will clarify physicians’ obligations to enable them to once again provide fundamental health care. We all deserve the freedom to make the best decisions about our bodies and futures, regardless of where we live or how much we make.”
“Over 90 percent of Arizonans support safe and legal access to abortion care, yet Arizona’s elected officials are fighting tooth and nail to turn back the clock almost 160 years by working to reinstate one of the most extreme abortion bans in the country,” said Jared Keenan, legal director for the ACLU of Arizona. “Politicians are following their own extremist agenda and ignoring the devastating reality pregnant people and providers now face. While we fight in court to seek clarity around the abortion laws, voters have an opportunity this November to send a clear message to lawmakers and elected officials that they need to secure abortion access.”
A copy of the complaint is here