Arizona’s Republican attorney general on Wednesday said that a total ban on abortions that has been on the books since before statehood can be enforced, putting him at odds with GOP Gov. Doug Ducey, who says a 15-week abortion ban he signed in March takes precedence.
Attorney General Mark Brnovich has been reviewing the law that’s been on the books since at least 1901 since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision last week. Abortion clinics across Arizona immediately stopped performing the procedure after Friday’s court ruling out of fear of prosecution.
Other states are also grappling with when and how to enforce bans that had been blocked nationwide under Roe. Louisiana’s attorney general on Wednesday issued a warning to doctors against performing abortions, despite a judge’s order blocking the state from enforcing its ban on the procedure.
In a letter to the Louisiana State Medical Society, Attorney General Jeff Landry said that the state judge’s Monday order blocking enforcement “has limited reach” and abortion has been a crime since Friday’s decision giving states the power to outlaw abortions.
“It is incumbent on this office to advise you that any medical provider who would perform or has performed an elective abortion after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs is jeopardizing his or her liberty and medical license,” Landry wrote, referencing the Friday decision.
The high court decision has set off legal battles in multiple states where lawmakers have sought to ban or restrict abortion.
Kentucky’s two abortion clinics asked a judge Wednesday to issue a temporary restraining order to block a state law that took effect after Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Attorneys for a Louisville clinic argued that Kentucky’s constitution allows for abortion. They said one of the clinics has turned away about 200 potential patients since the Friday ruling.
The Arizona conflict between two Republicans was not unexpected. The leader of the group that helped write the law and the Republican state senator who sponsored it, Nancy Barto, argued that the old law could be enforced. They pointed to a specific provision that said it did not override that law. Brnovich came down on their side.
“Our office has concluded the Legislature has made its intentions clear with regards to abortion laws,” Brmovich said on Twitter. “ARS 13-3603 (the pre-statehood law) is back in effect and will not be repealed” when the new law takes effect in late September.
Ducey spokesman C.J. Karamargin the governor’s office was reviewing Brnovich’s decision and had no immediate comment.
Abortion providers also pointed to the old law, and another passed last year that conferred all rights on eggs and fetuses, as reasons for stopping the procedures.
The old law was in place at least since 1901, 12 years before statehood. It says anyone who helps a pregnant woman obtain an abortion can be sentenced to two to five years in prison. The only exception is if the life of the woman is in jeopardy.
It has been blocked since 1973, but Brnovich says he'll see to have that injunction removed.
Lawyers for Ohio abortion providers asked that state's Supreme Court on Wednesday to use its powers to overturn a ban on abortions at the first detectable “ fetal heartbeat.” The American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and others argued the law violates the Ohio Constitution’s broad protections of individual liberty.
A challenge to West Virginia's abortion ban was announced Wednesday by the ACLU of that state. The organization said it was joining others in filing the suit in Kanawha County Circuit Court on behalf of Women's Health Center of West Virginia. The ACLU says the state ban dates back to the 1800s and has been superseded by numerous laws passed since, including a 20-week abortion ban that was passed in 2015 and acknowledges a patient's right to an abortion.
Earlier, Alabama's Attorney General Steve Marshall was quick to warn that elective abortions are illegal in the state. His Friday pronouncement came after a federal judge lifted an injunction soon after the Supreme Court decision.
The decision has also led to an increase in demand for emergency contraceptives — and to limits by some retailers on how many emergency contraceptives consumers can buy,
In Louisiana, Landry's spokesman did not immediately respond to a message asking whether his office would seek to prosecute doctors who perform abortions while the judge’s order is in effect.
The three abortion clinics in the state have said they would resume operations while the order is in effect. It was not immediately clear whether that decision would be affected by Landry’s letter.
Louisiana and Kentucky are among states that had “trigger” laws designed to ban abortion, with few exceptions, in anticipation of a Supreme Court ruling ending abortion rights.
Associated Press reporters Bob Christie in Phoenix, Julie Smyth in Columbus, Ohio, and Dylan Lovan in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this story.