1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

US: Arizona to enforce 19th century abortion ban

April 9, 2024

Arizona's Supreme Court has upheld a law from 1864 that opens the door to prosecuting doctors who perform abortions.

Right to abortion activists in Phoenix, Arizona
Arizona's Supreme Court has ruled the state can enforce an abortion ban from 1864Image: Joel Angel Juarez/The Republic/USA TODAY Network/IMAGO

The Supreme Court in the southwestern US state of Arizona ruled on Tuesday that the state can enforce an 1864 law banning most abortions.

The law will open the door to prosecuting doctors who perform the procedures.

What do we know about Arizona's 1864 abortion ban?

The long-dormant law predates Arizona's statehood and provides no exceptions for rape or incest but would allow abortion in the case of danger to the mother's life.

The law carries a sentence of two to five years in prison for anyone assisting in an abortion.

Arizona's Supreme Court had reviewed a 2022 decision by the Court of Appeals that said doctors couldn't be charged for performing abortions in the first 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Numerous US states have begun enforcing old abortion bans since June 2022, when the federal Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion.

Currently, 14 states are enforcing bans on abortion at all stages of pregnancy with limited exceptions.

Two states have banned abortion once cardiac activity can be detected, which is about six weeks into pregnancy. Many women do not yet know that they are pregnant at this stage.

Courts have blocked some restrictions, including bans throughout pregnancy in the states of Utah and Wyoming.

Arizona court rules in favor of 19th century abortion law

Biden, local Democrats denounce ban

President Joe Biden condemned the abortion ban in a statement.

"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," he said.

"Vice President Harris and I stand with the vast majority of Americans who support a woman's right to choose. We will continue to fight to protect reproductive rights and call on Congress to pass a law restoring the protections of Roe v. Wade," he said.

Abortion is set to be a major campaign issue as Biden prepares for a likely rematch with former President Donald Trump in November.

Democrat Senator Eva Burch urged for Arizona residents to vote on a ballot measure allowing the right to abortion, saying "the fight for reproductive rights is not over in Arizona."

Arizona's Attorney General, who is a Democrat, also denounce the Supreme Court's ruling.

"Today's decision to reimpose a law from a time when Arizona wasn't a state, the Civil War was raging, and women couldn't even vote, will go down in history as a stain on our state," she said.

'Abortion is healthcare and healthcare is a right of everybody'

sdi/jsi (AFP, AP)