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Court upholds 1864 abortion ban

Even in cases of rape or incest, abortions will be punishable in Arizona in the future: the US state Supreme Court declared a ban from 1864 valid again. US President Biden criticized sharply.

In Arizona, a 160-year-old abortion ban with extremely strict regulations could soon come into force again. The state Supreme Court ruled that an 1864 law prohibiting abortion even in cases of rape or incest should apply. Exceptions only apply if the life of the woman concerned is in danger.

However, it is unclear to what extent the law will be enforced. The judges initially set a 14-day deadline in order to have any outstanding constitutional questions clarified before a lower court. The law will not come into force within this period. Due to a separate lawsuit, this period could then be extended by another 45 days.

Attorney General does not want to enforce the law

The Arizona Attorney General also announced that she would not enforce the law. “I am saying clearly: As long as I am attorney general, no woman or doctor in this state will be prosecuted for this draconian law,” said Democrat Kris Mayes, who was elected to office.

However, this would not necessarily stop law enforcement at the local level from complying with the law, US media said. Abortion advocates warned that this uncertainty alone would lead to severely limited access to abortion in the state. Accordingly, clinics would simply no longer carry out the procedure for fear of criminal prosecution. Abortion is already banned in Arizona after the 15th week of pregnancy unless the mother's life is in danger.

There is a risk of long prison sentences

The 19th-century ban does not directly criminalize women seeking abortions, but rather people who help them do so. For example, a doctor could be sentenced to a prison sentence of up to five years. Although the law became invalid in 1973 with the nationwide constitutional right to abortion in the USA, it was never actually abolished. Around 50 years later – in June 2022 – the Supreme Court overturned the important landmark ruling on nationwide abortion rights. Since then, sovereignty over legislation has once again rested with the individual states. A legal patchwork has emerged.

Important election campaign issue

Abortion rights are a key campaign issue ahead of November's presidential and congressional elections. Democratic presidential candidate and incumbent Joe Biden immediately condemned the verdict. He accused the Republicans of wanting to “take away women's freedom.” There is currently no statement from Republican candidate Donald Trump. Trump recently caused discontent among arch-conservatives by refusing to commit to a national abortion ban if he won the election.

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