The Arizona Court of Appeals on Friday blocked the enforcement of a near-total abortion ban that took effect in the state last month. This means that, for now, abortions up to 15 weeks can legally take place in Arizona again.
In the court order, the three-judge panel wrote that the injunction should not have been lifted in September and agreed to put the near-total abortion ban law on hold.
After the US Supreme Court struck down the landmark opinion that legalized abortion nationwide in June, Arizona was one of many states across the country that immediately sought to further restrict abortion access.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, asked the court to lift a 50-year-old injunction that was first implemented when Roe was passed in 1973. The injunction had blocked the older ban.
Then, last month, Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson sided with the attorney general and removed the injunction allowing the abortion ban, which has no exceptions for rape or incest, to take effect. That meant that Arizona would return again to the 121-year-old abortion ban.
Planned Parenthood filed a motion three days later asking the Pima County court to put a hold on the ruling, arguing that there was confusion over the varying abortion laws that have taken effect in Arizona since Roe was overturned.
The confusion stemmed from the fact that in the same month the near-total abortion ban took effect, a 15-week abortion ban introduced by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in 2019 also took effect in the state.
It was and still is unclear which law takes precedence.
"The Court’s order creates confusion over the meaning of Arizona’s laws and has the practical effect of nullifying dozens of duly enacted laws ... including the 15-week law," reads the motion filed by Planned Parenthood in September.
In the ruling on Friday, the appellate judges wrote that they agreed with Planned Parenthood’s claim that the Arizona courts have a "responsibility to attempt to harmonize the state's abortion laws."
Presiding Judge Peter Eckerstrom writes that the court was in favor of granting the stay (or pause) "given the acute need of healthcare providers, prosecuting agencies, and the public for legal clarity as to the application of our criminal laws."
Currently, there is a hearing scheduled for Oct. 11 to decide whether to accelerate the hearing for Planned Parenthood’s full appeal on the abortion ban.