Supreme Court of Arizona State logo; Phoenix^ Arizona^ USA^ March 6^ 2023

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that a 160-year-old law is still enforceable, making abortion a felony. The 4-2 court ruling upholds the 1864 law still on the books in the state, in a decision that effectively bans abortion. The Arizona Supreme Court’s new decision effectively undoes a lower court’s ruling that stated that a more recent 15-week ban from March 2022 superseded the 1864 law. The Arizona Supreme Court said it would put its decision on hold for 14 days, saying it would send the case back to a lower court so that court could consider “additional constitutional challenges” that haven’t yet been cleared up.

The 1864 law in Arizona – which was codified in 1901, and again in 1913 — includes an exception to save the woman’s life, but makes abortion a felony punishable by two to five years in prison for anyone who performs one or helps a woman obtain one. Per NBC News, this Civil War-era law, which was enacted a half-century before Arizona gained statehood, was never repealed and an appellate court ruled last year that it could remain on the books as long as it was “harmonized” with a 2022 law, leading to substantial confusion in Arizona regarding exactly when during a pregnancy abortion was outlawed.

President Joe Biden blasted the ruling in a statement from the White House: “Millions of Arizonans will soon live under an even more extreme and dangerous abortion ban, which fails to protect women even when their health is at risk or in tragic cases of rape or incest.” Biden called the ban “cruel” and “a result of the extreme agenda of Republican elected officials who are committed to ripping away women’s freedom,” while promising to “continue to fight to protect reproductive rights.”

Editorial credit: AdamBagindo /

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