In yet another abrupt turnabout, abortion is now legal in Arizona.

The Arizona Court of Appeals granted Planned Parenthood Arizona’s request for an emergency stay of a Sept. 23 ruling when Pima County Judge Kellie Johnson lifted an injunction that had been in place for 50 years. Judge Johnson’s ruling allowed an 1864 near-total abortion ban to take effect. Abortion clinics throughout the state suspended services.

The Friday, Oct. 7, ruling from a three-judge panel of the Arizona Court of Appeals temporarily blocks enforcement of the ban while Planned Parenthood’s appeal proceeds.

The decision allows abortion care to resume, effective immediately.

“Arizona courts have a responsibility to attempt to harmonize all of this state’s relevant statutes,” the decision reads, in a nod to the differing laws currently on the books, which have confused providers, patients, and lawyers alike. “The court further concludes the balance of hardships weigh strongly in favor of granting the stay, given the acute need of healthcare providers, prosecuting agencies and the public for legal clarity as to the application of our criminal laws.”

The ruling is the latest in a turbulent back-and-forth since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June. With two different abortion laws on the books, not even the state’s top prosecutor, Attorney General Mark Brnovich was clear which law took precedent. Brnovich’s office recently wrote to Gov. Doug Ducey, urging assistance in “providing clarity” and asking for a special legislative session.

“For over 100 days, Arizonans have experienced pure chaos and confusion and it has been traumatic for our physicians and staff who have been forced to notify patients that they can no longer care for them,” said Brittany Fonteno, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, in a statement Oct. 7. “The court’s decision to issue a stay while the legal process continues to unfold will allow Planned Parenthood Arizona to resume abortion care services.”

President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Arizona, Brittany Fonteno speaks at an event. Credit: Planned Parenthood or Arizona

The most recent poll of registered Arizona voters, from late September, showed that 91% support some form of legal abortion

“We can now breathe a sigh of relief and serve patients,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.” While the fight isn’t over, for now, Arizonans will once again be able to make their own decisions about their bodies, health care decisions, and futures.”

There will be a hearing Tuesday, Oct. 11, to determine whether the case will be fast-tracked and to set a hearing schedule.

John Washington

John Washington is an investigative journalist based in Tucson with a focus on immigration and borders, as well as criminal justice and literature. His first book, "The Dispossessed: A Story of Asylum...