PHOENIX — Many questions have come up in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's hearing this past week on a Mississippi anti-abortion law that challenges the court's half-century-old decision affirming a woman's right to an abortion.
We're verifying one of those questions: Does Arizona have a law on the books that bans abortion?
Here's why the question is timely: The Supreme Court's ruling in the Mississippi case - expected by late June or July - could activate unenforced abortion bans in states across the country, like the one in Arizona.
Arizona is one of 26 states that are either certain or likely to ban all abortions if the high court overturns the Roe versus Wade decision, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization that advocates for reproductive rights.
Our sources for this Verify are:
- Wendi Goen, lead reference archivist at the Arizona State Library in Phoenix.
- Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy and the person most responsible for anti-abortion legislation in Arizona over the last 15 years.
- Chris Love, board chair of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, the advocacy arm for Planned Parenthood of Arizona, which is the state's leading defender of abortion rights.
Thanks to Goen, at the Arizona State Library, we tracked down the state's original abortion ban. It shows up in the revised statutes from the Arizona Territory in 1901.
Under the heading "Abortions," the territory made it a crime for anyone to help a pregnant woman "procure the miscarriage of such woman, unless the same is necessary to preserve her life." The penalty was two to five years in prison.
The Arizona Territory statute from 120 years ago is virtually unchanged today, in the law books for the 109-year-old State of Arizona.
Earlier this year, the Legislature repealed a companion law to the 1901 abortion ban that punished women seeking an abortion with one to five years in prison.
On this weekend's "Sunday Square Off," at 8 a.m. Sunday on 12 News, guests Cathi Herrod and Cindy Love agreed that the Supreme Court's ruling will likely activate the Arizona ban on abortion.
"They probably will kick that back to the states and let each state decide how they would like to regulate abortion," Love said.
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, an abortion opponent, said he hoped the high court would do that, even if it meant overturning decades of precedent.
"I've made my position on abortion clear," the governor told reporters Wednesday. "I'm pro-life. I remain pro-life.
"I'm not listening to the oral arguments of the court, but I'm hopeful we will protect life in this country and the court will find a way there."
We verified that Arizona has had an abortion ban on the books for more than a century. It hasn't been enforced since the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe versus Wade decision in 1973 legalized the right to abortion for women nationwide.
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