Licensed doctors can perform abortions up to 15 weeks, Arizona court rules News
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Licensed doctors can perform abortions up to 15 weeks, Arizona court rules

The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled Friday that licensed physicians can legally perform abortions insofar as the fetus is less than 15 weeks old.

In September 2022, a trial court ruled that a 1901 near-total abortion ban could be enforced following Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization. However, the Arizona Court of Appeals has partially overturned that decision, stating the 1901 law must be read in parallel with Title 36, passed pre-Dobbs in March 2022, which allowed for licensed physicians to perform abortions if the fetus was less than 15 weeks old. Judge Eckerstrom concluded the law now permits “physicians to perform elective abortions up to fifteen weeks but only in conformity with a host of exacting regulations.” Non-licensed physicians, alongside those that fail to follow Arizona’s other abortion regulations, may still be prosecuted under the 1901 law.

Brnovich, the Attorney General of Arizona, argued the 1901 law undeniably included licensed physicians in the ban, and so could still be enforced in spite of Title 36. However, the court rejected the argument for three reasons. Firstly, the argument ignored the “unambiguous legislative intent to regulate but not eliminate elective abortions.” Secondly, it would create an “irreconcilable conflict” between the 1901 ban and Title 36. Finally, it would promote “arbitrary enforcement” as prosecutors could use discretion and choose when to enforce the 1901 ban or Title 36.

Following the victory, Brittany Fonteno, CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, made the following statement:

After the overturning of Roe v. Wade, AG Brnovich and his extremist allies took it upon themselves to create chaos, rapidly shift the landscape for abortion access in Arizona, and deny their constituents basic health care. Through that chaos, Planned Parenthood Arizona fought for clarity in the face of insurmountable confusion. Today brings us one step closer to fundamental abortion rights for all Arizonans.

This case is part of a larger legal battle being fought across the US for abortion rights following Dobbs. Ohio, alongside several other states, are still in the process of delineating the line between legal and criminal abortions.