Arizona agrees not to enforce its near-total abortion ban until 2023 at least

Protesters against Arizona antiabortion bill
Demonstrators protest an antiabortion bill at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix in April 2021.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Arizona’s attorney general has agreed not to enforce a near-total ban on abortions at least until next year, a move that Planned Parenthood Arizona credited Thursday with allowing the group to restart abortion services across the state.

The state’s largest provider of abortions had restarted services at only their Tucson clinics after an appeals court Oct. 7 blocked enforcement of the law, which dates back to 1864. A lower court had allowed enforcement of that law Sept. 23, halting all abortions statewide.

On Thursday, Planned Parenthood said services would resume statewide, including at clinics in metro Phoenix and in Flagstaff.


“While we are celebrating today, we can’t ignore that we are still on a long and uncertain path to restoring the fundamental right to abortion in Arizona, and making this essential healthcare truly accessible and equitable for all people,” Brittany Fonteno, who heads Planned Parenthood Arizona, said at a news conference. “While abortion is currently legal in Arizona and we have resumed abortion care throughout the state, we know that this could very well be temporary.”

The only exception to the law is if the pregnant woman’s life is in jeopardy. The pre-statehood abortion ban law had been blocked since Roe vs. Wade was decided in 1973, but Republican Atty. Gen. Mark Brnovich asked a court in Tucson to allow it to be enforced this summer. The 158-year-old law carries a prison sentence of two to five years.

After the judge in Tucson agreed with Brnovich, the court of appeals temporarily overrode her and set a schedule for Planned Parenthood and the Arizona attorney general’s office to file their legal briefs in the appeal. Those document are due by Nov. 17.

One Arizona abortion clinic — run by a crew of defiant women — has become a haven in the post-Roe vs. Wade United States.

Aug. 8, 2022

Meanwhile, a Phoenix physician who runs a clinic that provides abortions and the Arizona Medical Assn. filed a separate lawsuit that sought to block the territorial-era law, arguing that laws enacted by the Legislature after 1973′s Roe vs. Wade decision should take precedence and abortions should be allowed until 15 weeks into a pregnancy.

The lawsuit repeats many of the arguments made by Planned Parenthood in its failed effort last month to persuade the Tucson judge to keep in place a 50-year-old injunction barring enforcement of the old law. The judge said it was not procedurally proper for her to try to reconcile 50 years of modern law with the old law.

Brnovich sought to place that lawsuit on hold until the court of appeals rules on the Planned Parenthood case. In an agreement with the abortion rights groups, he agreed not to enforce the old law until at least 45 days after a final ruling in the original case.


Any decision by the court of appeals is certain to be appealed to the state Supreme Court, so it could be well into 2023 before a final decision is rendered.

The Planned Parenthood in El Centro sees a surge in out-of-state patients — most from Arizona — seeking abortion care after the end of Roe vs. Wade.

July 20, 2022

A law enacted by the Arizona Legislature this year limits abortions to 15 weeks into a pregnancy, well before the 24 weeks generally allowed under Roe vs. Wade, which was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.

Arizona women seeking abortions have been whipsawed by the state’s competing laws since the high court’s decision. Also in play is a “personhood” law that has raised fears among abortion providers that they could face criminal charges, but a federal judge blocked the law in July.

Abortion providers halted all care in Arizona after Roe vs. Wade was struck down, restarted in mid-July after the personhood law was blocked and stopped again when the Tucson judge allowed the 1864 law to be enforced.