Today (April 9), the Arizona Supreme Court upheld a 160-year-old abortion ban. The ban, dating back to pre-statehood, mandates imprisonment of two-to-five years for individuals aiding in abortions except when necessary to save the mother's life. Despite being only "prospectively enforced," its potential implementation could halt legal abortions in Arizona, causing concern among reproductive rights activists who fear increased health risks for women.

"The near-total Civil War-era ban that continues to hang over our heads only serves to create more chaos for women and doctors in our state," said Governor Katie Hobbs in a press conference following the decision. "I promise I will do everything in my power to protect our reproductive freedoms."

In 2023, Hobbs issued an executive order assigning abortion law enforcement to the state attorney general. The person currently holding that position, Kris Mayes, has already pledged not to enforce any abortion bans. “This is far from the end of the debate on reproductive freedom, and I look forward to the people of Arizona having their say in the matter,” Hayes wrote in her official statement. “And let me be completely clear, as long as I am attorney general, no woman or doctor will be prosecuted under this draconian law in this state.”

The ruling has galvanized efforts for a ballot measure aimed at preserving reproductive rights, with Arizona for Abortion Access stating that they've already surpassed the required number of signatures. The impending ballot measure's impact extends beyond reproductive rights, potentially influencing state legislative elections due to heightened Democratic turnout.

Originating in the 1864 Howell Code, Arizona's abortion ban resembled similar laws across the United States and was rigorously enforced until the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. Planned Parenthood's legal challenge against the ban in 1971 initially failed, but the subsequent Roe v. Wade decision led to an injunction against the pre-statehood law. For nearly five decades, legal abortions were protected, until the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling in 2022, which eroded Roe protections and emboldened Republican politicians to seek enforcement of the 1864 law.