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Arizona Supreme Court Upholds Law Protecting Unborn Life

When it comes to defending life in Arizona, ADF is doing what the attorney general refuses to do.
Alliance Defending Freedom
Mother holding baby

When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, it returned the issue of protecting life to the people and their elected representatives. That allowed Arizona to again enforce its pro-life law protecting unborn children from the moment of conception.

Through their elective representatives, Arizonans have chosen to protect life for decades. In 2022, then-Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked the courts to allow enforcement of a pre-Roe law protecting life from the moment of conception, and a state trial court ruled in his favor. But Planned Parenthood appealed, attempting to override the will of voters by seeking to strike down the pro-life law.

The case progressed all the way to the Arizona Supreme Court, and in April 2024, the court issued its decision, upholding Arizona’s law affirming that the state can fully protect life again.

What does Arizona’s pre-Roe law say?

Arizona’s law protects unborn children from the moment of conception—a position that has been bolstered by 50 years of scientific research since Roe v. Wade was decided.

Contrary to the so-called “viability” rules adopted in previous court cases, research shows that unborn babies’ hearts begin to beat at just six weeks—months before they can survive outside the womb. At eight weeks, babies have visible fingers and toes. And at ten weeks, their fingerprints begin to develop, further affirming their unique personhood.

Arizona’s law ensures that abortions are not performed except to save a mother’s life. The law is designed to protect unborn children, and it is also crafted to protect women from the heightened risk of illness and physical or mental trauma that can come with elective abortions.

Who did Alliance Defending Freedom represent in this case?

When this case was re-opened after Dobbs, pro-life Attorney General Mark Brnovich was in office, and he was seeking to defend the pro-life law that Arizonans had voted for through their representatives. But following the midterm elections in 2022, pro-abortion Attorney General Kris Mayes assumed office.

Mayes vowed not to defend Arizona’s law against the challenge from Planned Parenthood. So ADF filed a motion to intervene on behalf of Yavapai County Attorney Dennis McGrane.

ADF had previously intervened on behalf of Dr. Eric Hazelrigg, an obstetrician and medical director of Choices Pregnancy Center in Arizona. As the medical director of a pro-life pregnancy center, Dr. Hazelrigg has a unique interest in protecting Arizona’s unborn children. McGrane, meanwhile has a vested interest in enforcing the laws of Arizona, which Attorney General Mayes has chosen not to do. Both McGrane and Dr. Hazelrigg were granted intervention in the case.

Why Arizona’s law deserves to be defended

First, Arizonans have chosen to protect life through their elected representatives for decades. The state’s pre-Roe law was initially codified in 1901, and it was reenacted in 1977. In 2022, the Arizona Legislature passed its 15-weeks law, specifically saying it did not repeal the state’s pre-Roe law, created no right to abortion, and legalized no unlawful abortion.

Despite all this, Planned Parenthood attempted to strike down the law. After Dobbs, an Arizona trial court allowed the law to again be enforced to protect life.

Second, elective abortions not only kill unborn children but also put women at risk. Women who undergo elective abortions suffer a heightened risk of death, illness, and psychological trauma.

Abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood rely on performing abortions to make a profit. They mislead women about abortion and its consequences and pressure women into thinking that abortion is their only option. Arizona’s law and others like it around the country ensure that women receive the care and support they need.

Arizona Supreme Court: no right to abortion in AZ

Following ADF’s intervention on behalf of Dr. Hazelrigg, the Pima County Superior Court ruled in September 2022 that the state is free to enforce its pre-Roe law. But the state Court of Appeals disagreed, misinterpreting state law to allow abortion in circumstances where the Arizona legislature had prohibited it.

In April 2024, the Arizona Supreme Court reversed that mistaken ruling, upholding Arizona’s law and ruling that the state may once again fully protect life.

“We conclude that [Arizona’s law] does not create a right to, or otherwise provide independent statutory authority for, an abortion that repeals or restricts [the law], but rather is predicated entirely on the existence of a federal constitutional right to an abortion since disclaimed by Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization,” the court wrote in its opinion.

“Absent the federal constitutional abortion right, and because [the law] does not independently authorize abortion, there is no provision in federal or state law prohibiting [the law’s] operation. Accordingly, [Arizona’s law] is now enforceable.”

Planned Parenthood Arizona v. Mayes

  • September 2022: The Pima County Superior Court ruled that Arizona’s pre-Roe law protecting life could go back into effect.
  • December 2022: The Arizona Court of Appeals misinterpreted the law and enjoined the portion allowing for physicians to be prosecuted if they perform unlawful abortions.
  • March 2023: ADF attorneys asked the Arizona Supreme Court to restore the law.
  • August 2023: The Arizona Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
  • December 2023: The court heard oral argument in the case.
  • April 2024: The Arizona Supreme Court upheld the state’s pro-life law.