Victory: Arizona Supreme Court Allows Law to Take Effect Protecting Nearly All Unborn Babies

(Oregon Right to Life) — The Arizona Supreme Court last week handed down a major pro-life victory, ruling that the state could once again enforce its pre-Roe v. Wade law limiting nearly all abortions. The decision could save thousands of unborn lives every year.

On April 9, the Arizona state Supreme Court ruled that an expansive 1864 law protecting unborn babies could once again take effect. Under the law, any person may be prosecuted who “uses or employs any instrument or other means whatever, with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage of [a pregnant] woman, unless it is necessary to save her life.”

“In light of this Opinion, physicians are now on notice that all abortions, except those necessary to save a woman’s life, are illegal,” the justices wrote. While the removal of an unborn baby from a mother’s body is sometimes necessary in certain serious circumstances (e.g., in the case of ectopic pregnancy), these procedures differ in procedure and intent from deliberate abortions meant to target and end the life of the growing unborn human being.

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The Arizona court’s April 9 ruling has been met with praise from pro-life advocates and organizations.

“An amazing win for human rights and children’s lives!” Live Action president and founder Lila Rose said in a social media post, declaring that the decision “could save 11,000 Arizona children every year.”

“A HUGE win for life in Arizona after the Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s 1864 pre-Roe ban on nearly ALL abortions,” reacted pro-life author and speaker Abby Johnson. “Thousands of babies are going to be saved by this protection over their life. Praise Jesus!”

“We celebrate this enormous victory for unborn children and their mothers,” Susan B. Anthony (SBA) Pro-Life America president Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a press release. “Reinstating Arizona’s pro-life law will protect more than 11,000 babies annually at all stages of pregnancy while providing an exception for the life of the mother. This includes babies who have heartbeats, babies who can feel pain, and babies who can smile and suck their thumbs.”

“Today’s state Supreme Court decision is a major advancement in the fight for life in Arizona,” Dannenfelser wrote.

The Arizona Supreme Court said enforcement of the 1864 law could begin in two weeks, though plaintiffs argue that enforcement could be delayed for two months, per the Associated Press.

In the meantime, SBA said pro-abortion activists are expected to file a lawsuit. Additionally, a pro-abortion proposal to enshrine a “right to abortion” in the state constitution threatens the ultimate impact of the state Supreme Court’s decision.

The ballot initiative, which Arizona voters will consider in November, would override the pro-life law and reauthorize elective abortions until fetal viability (usually around 24 weeks gestation). The amendment would also allow a woman at any stage of pregnancy to get an abortion if her physical or mental health is considered to be at risk.

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“We must defeat this extreme measure that would force Arizonans to pay for abortions and eliminate health protections for women,” Dannenfelser said in her statement.

Abortion-related ballot initiatives have proven to present serious challenges for pro-life advocates at the state level. Following the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, all such initiatives – generally framed as efforts to shield families from government interference – have been decided in favor of protecting abortion access, rather than the unborn.

This year, several new abortion proposals will land on state ballots, including in Arizona and Florida. Advocates for the unborn have recognized that changes in strategy are necessary to promote the protection of human life in opposition to pro-abortion ballot initiatives.

Written by Ashley Sadler, communications director for Oregon Right to Life.

Oregon Right to Life believes in the sanctity of all human life from the moment of conception to natural death. Abortion ends the life of a genetically distinct, growing human being. We oppose abortion at any point of gestation. Read this and all of our position statements here.


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