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Arizona judge won’t suspend ruling that halted all abortions

PHOENIX — An Arizona judge on Friday refused to put on hold her order allowing enforcement of a pre-statehood law that made it a crime to perform an abortion, saying it’s unlikely abortion groups that have asked her to block the order prevail on appeal.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson’s ruling means the state’s abortion providers will not be able to restart procedures. Abortions stopped on Sept. 23 when Johnson ruled that a 1973 court order must be lifted so the Civil War-era law can be enforced.

Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich sought the order to lift the injunction. Lawyers in his office told the judge that since the US Supreme Court’s June 24 decision said women do not have a constitutional right to have an abortion, there was no legal reason to block the previous law.

Planned Parenthood and its Arizona affiliate had urged Johnson to uphold the injunction issued shortly after Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. They argued that laws enacted by the state Legislature in the next 50 years should take precedence.

Lawyers for Planned Parenthood asked Johnson on Monday to put his ruling on hold to allow an appeal.

Before last Friday’s ruling allowing the old law to apply, abortions were legal in Arizona until the fetus was viable, usually around 24 weeks of pregnancy. But a law enacted by the state legislature last spring that bans abortion at 15 weeks went into effect on Saturday.

government Doug Ducey has said the law takes precedence, but his lawyers did not seek to argue that position in court. Brnovich and some Republican lawmakers insist the old law is still in place.

Brittany Fonteno, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Arizona, said she was “outraged” by the ruling.

“It is unconscionable that Arizonans wake up each morning to their elected officials making conflicting statements about what laws are in place or claiming they don’t know, and yet the court has refused to provide clarity or relief,” Fonteno said.

Some clinics in Arizona have been referring patients to providers in California and New Mexico since Johnson lifted the injunction on the old law, and they were prepared to restart abortions. The state’s previous law carries a sentence of two to five years in prison for doctors or anyone else assisting in an abortion. Last year, the Legislature repeated a law that allows charges against women seeking abortions.

Ashleigh Feiring, a nurse at abortion provider Camelback Family Planning in Phoenix, said her office will continue to find ways to serve patients.

“We’re trying to think of everything we can to find loopholes in the law,” Feiring said Friday, adding that the facility would be willing to provide the procedure once again.

Feiring said her office continues to provide post-miscarriage care and provides patients with ultrasounds so they know how many weeks pregnant they may be. That’s important, because abortion pills can only be used in the first 10 to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Feiring said some patients can get an abortion pill prescription from a provider in Sweden and get it by mail from a pharmacy in India, but that takes about three weeks. Arizona law prohibits delivery of the abortion pill through the mail, and US providers generally won’t take that risk.

Since Roe was struck down, Arizona and 13 other states have banned abortions at any stage of pregnancy. About 13,000 people in Arizona have abortions each year, according to reports from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

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