Arizona Assistant Attorney General Michael Catlett defended a state abortion ban Wednesday in front of a state appeals court, saying authorities should be allowed to enforce legal protections for unborn babies.
The Daily Independent reports the three-judge panel considered arguments from the attorney general’s office and Planned Parenthood about whether to lift a temporary block on a pre-Roe v. Wade law that bans killing unborn babies in elective abortions.
The 1864 pro-life law went into effect this summer after the Supreme Court overturned Roe, but the Planned Parenthood abortion chain sued and a state judge blocked the legislation in October. Now, unborn babies are being aborted in the state again.
On Wednesday, the appeals court considered arguments from both sides about whether the total abortion ban or a newer law that prohibits abortions after 15 weeks conflict and which should be enforced.
Catlett told the judges that the 15-week ban, which passed earlier this year, specifically states that it does not repeal the pre-Roe law, according to the report. He also said lawmakers never repealed the 1864 law, so the court should allow authorities to enforce it.
According to the Center for Arizona Policy, “The clear intent of the legislature was that the 15-week limit only would go into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court did not overturn Roe in the Dobbs decision.”
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Here’s more from AZ Central:
Planned Parenthood Arizona wants to keep the injunction in place, arguing that state laws passed in Arizona since then that regulate abortion as a legal service must be “harmonized” with the pre-statehood law. The way to do that, according to Planned Parenthood, is through a ruling that interprets the law as applicable only when a non-physician attempts to provide an abortion.
[State Attorney General Mark] Brnovich wants the old law to work like it did before 1973 alongside the newer and less punitive 15-week law, and with county prosecutors deciding which one would apply in each circumstance.
Planned Parenthood lawyer Sarah MacDougall argued that the 15-week ban should be considered a restriction on medical professionals, while the total abortion ban should apply only to people who are not medical professionals.
Several news reports pointed out that the three judges seemed skeptical of both sides’ arguments and questioned how both laws could be enforced.
“The physicians and the people of Arizona are going to be pretty unclear about what is lawful conduct and what is not lawful conduct,” Judge Peter Eckerstrom said at one point, the Independent reports.
It is not clear when the court will rule on the case.
Responding to the lawsuit, Cathi Herrod, a lawyer and president of the Center for Arizona Policy, said Planned Parenthood’s arguments do not make sense because state law prohibits non-doctors from doing abortions.
Herrod said the state legislature also repeatedly rejected attempts to repeal the 1864 abortion ban, including when they repealed another old law that punished women for abortions.
“Lawmakers passed restrictions on abortion to the extent that laws were permissible pursuant to decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts,” she said. “It is false to claim that lawmakers intended these laws to co-exist with pre-Roe law.”
The 1864 law prohibits the killing of unborn babies in abortions except if the mother’s life is at risk. Abortionists who provide, supply or administer abortions, abortion drugs or abortion devices to women for the purpose of killing an unborn baby can face two to five years in prison.
The law has the potential to save as many as 36 babies from abortion every day in Arizona. Currently, only the 15-week ban is in effect.
Since the Dobbs ruling in June, more than a dozen states now protect unborn babies by banning or strictly limiting abortions, and about 10 more are fighting in court to do so. New research estimates these laws already have saved as many as 10,000 unborn babies’ lives since June.