Oral arguments heard in Arizona abortion case

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Arizona Supreme Court Shutterstock

Oral arguments in the case to decide abortion laws in Arizona were heard at the state Supreme Court on Tuesday morning. 

There are two different laws on the books, including one that was signed into law by former Republican Gov. Doug Ducey that bans abortion after 15 weeks with a mother’s health exception. The other law was from pre-statehood in 1864, which prohibits abortion unless the procedure is done to save the life of a mother.

The 15-week ban is the one that serves as the enforceable law right now in Arizona. The Arizona Court of Appeals decided in December 2022 to allow that less restrictive law to be enforced, as opposed to the 1864 one, The Center Square reported.  

Justice Bill Montgomery recused himself from the case over past social media posts criticizing Planned Parenthood, so the case will be decided by six justices, according to KJZZ. The court decided not to have a replacement, and if it’s a tie between the justices, the 15-week law will stand, 12 News reported. 

Alliance Defending Freedom’s senior counsel Jake Warner argued for scrapping the injunction from the appellate court to go to the territorial ban, stating in a press conference afterward that “life is a human right.” In addition, argued that the two laws are not technically in conflict with each other.

Roe v. Wade was overturned by the United States Supreme Court in June 2022 as part of the Dobbs decision, which essentially gave full power back to the states on abortion laws. 

“Abortion is healthcare,” Andy Gaona, the attorney representing Planned Parenthood, said while closing out his argument.

Solicitor General Josh Bendor with the Attorney General’s Office also argued in agreement with the Court of Appeals decision.

“I think the court of appeals got it right,” Solicitor General Josh Bendor concluded in his arguments for the Attorney General’s office.

Still, justices had a variety of questions for lawyers from both sides. 

“But where is the rule that the Arizona law must be clear?” Justice Clint Bolick quipped when he asked the lawyers arguing in favor of keeping the appellate injunction in place, since a lot of the discussion from justices and on both sides had to do with legislative intent. 

In a news conference following oral arguments, Attorney General Kris Mayes expressed her support for the appellate decision. 

“And I’m very hopeful, especially based on what we heard today, that our Supreme Court agrees with that ruling,” Mayes said but added that the law does not go far enough to protect abortion access in her view. 

“Arizonans deserve certainty when it comes to our reproductive health, including the right to have an abortion,” Mayes said. “Our medical professionals deserve certainty too.”

There is currently a ballot initiative in Arizona to make abortion up to “fetal viability” a state constitutional right backed by groups such as Planned Parenthood, regardless of what the court decides, The Center Square reported.

Republished with the permission of The Center Square.