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Court in Arizona rules a 160-year-old law banning nearly all abortions can be reinstated

This file photo shows Celina Washburn at a protest on Sept. 23, 2022, outside the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix.
This file photo shows Celina Washburn at a protest on Sept. 23, 2022, outside the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix. Copyright AP Photo/Matt York, File
Copyright AP Photo/Matt York, File
By AP & Euronews
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Arizona can enforce an 1864 law criminalising nearly all abortions, a court in the US state has ruled.

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Arizona's Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that officials can enforce a 160-year-old law banning abortions.

The US state joins 14 others that have banned abortion since the 2022 overturning of Roe v Wade, a court case that guaranteed access to abortion in the US.

Arizona's 1864 law bans abortions except if it is "necessary to save" a woman's life, providing no exceptions for rape or incest. The law predates Arizona's statehood.

The state's Supreme Court said enforcement won't begin for at least two weeks, but it could be up to two months.

The number of abortions in the state is expected to drop from about 1,100 monthly to nearly zero, as estimated by a survey for the Society of Family Planning.

The forecast is based on what has happened in other states that ban abortion at all stages of pregnancy.

'Fight for reproductive rights is not over'

Arizona Senator Eva Burch, who has had an abortion since announcing on the Senate floor last month that she was seeking one because her pregnancy wasn’t viable, criticised Republican lawmakers who back the ban.

"The fight for reproductive rights is not over in Arizona," she said, referring to a statewide petition campaign to put the issue on the ballot this fall. "This moment must not slow us down".

Planned Parenthood officials vowed to continue providing abortions for the short time they are still legal. They will also reinforce networks that help women travel out of state to places like New Mexico and California to access abortion.

Brittany Crawford, a mother of three who owns a hair salon in Phoenix, said the high court's ruling could have far-reaching consequences.

"You are going to have a lot of desperate girls doing whatever they can to get rid of their babies," Crawford said. "Some could end up dead".

She herself had an abortion at 18, right out of high school, and said she suffered extreme emotional trauma.

"I still think I should have the right to decide whether I do have a child, or whether I don’t have a child," she said.

Arizona ruling suggests doctors can be prosecuted

The Center for Arizona Policy, a longtime backer of anti-abortion proposals before the Legislature, commended the ruling.

"Today’s outcome acknowledges the sanctity of all human life and spares women the physical and emotional harms of abortion," the group said in a statement.

The 1864 law carries a sentence of two to five years in prison for doctors or anyone else who assists in an abortion.

The Arizona Supreme Court said in its decision that doctors are now "on notice that all abortions, except those necessary to save a woman’s life, are illegal".

The court added that additional criminal and regulatory sanctions may apply to abortions performed after 15 weeks.

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