Civil War-Era Abortion Ban Set to Take Effect in Arizona

The state Supreme Court upheld an abortion ban from 1864, though it won't take effect for several weeks.

Civil War-Era Abortion Ban Set to Take Effect in Arizona

Another week, another horrific abortion ruling. On Tuesday, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld an abortion ban passed in 1864 when Arizona was still a territory, not a state. Arizonans have been living under a 15-week ban since December 2022, but this new ruling prohibits abortions at any gestation unless done to save the life of the pregnant person. Abortion providers could face up to five years in prison for violating the law, which could limit the number of people willing to perform an emergency abortion.

Planned Parenthood Arizona said in a statement that it would continue providing abortions through 15 weeks until the law takes effect. While the Court stated that this ban would go into effect in 14 days, Planned Parenthood maintains that—due to a previous order in a separate casethe 160-year-old law is barred from going into effect for at least 45 days.

Former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) who signed the 15-week ban, wrote on Twitter that this was “not the outcome [he] would have preferred,” even though he was the one who appointed five of the seven GOP justices on the court.

The very existence of a 15-week ban should have nullified arguments that the 1864 ban was legitimate—if abortion is totally banned under state law, why do you need to pass a ban at a particular stage? But, unfortunately, courts can resurrect 160-year-old laws, and if Trump wins and enforces a different Civil War-era law known as the Comstock Act, we could all be facing what Arizonans are about to endure. Yes, there’s an active effort to put abortion on the ballot in Arizona but a Trump win would override that.


“Let me be clear. Arizona’s 2022 abortion ban is extreme and hurts women, and the near total Civil War era ban that continues to hang over our heads only serves to create more chaos for women, and doctors in our state,” Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) told reporters on Tuesday. The state’s Attorney General, Kris Mayes, also said her office will not be enforcing the law: “Let me be completely clear, as long as I am Attorney General, no woman or doctor will be prosecuted under this draconian law in this state.” But local prosecutors could choose to do so.

Last Monday, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a six-week ban could take effect on May 1, which will officially decimate abortion access in the South. There were 84,000 abortions performed in Florida in 2023, or about 1 in 12 abortions nationwide, and more than 9,300 people traveled to Florida from other states to get an abortion in 2023.

As continues to be the case with Florida, you’ll likely hear many talking heads discuss how this ruling is a gift for Democrats. In Arizona, the party is seeking to hold a Senate seat and keep the state blue in the presidential election. That could be true, but there will be months to talk about that and, right now, people who need abortions deserve our outrage and support.

For folks interested, here’s where you can donate to Arizona abortion funds and Florida abortion funds to help people get the care they need.

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