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Too Little, Too Late: Arizona Repeals Strict Abortion Ban, While Florida Cracks Down on Reproductive Rights

On April 9, the top court in Arizona moved to restrict reproductive rights statewide, reinstating a 160-year-old near-total ban on abortion. The bill permits abortion only if the pregnant person’s life is in danger, proving unpopular among Democrats and Republicans alike for its severity and ambiguity. 

In response to widespread public outcry, the state Legislature passed a narrow majority vote to repeal said ban. However, the repeal is yet to take effect, meaning most residents of Arizona are unable to receive an abortion for at least the next three months; according to Arizona state law, the state legislature is unable to pass new legislation for 90 days after the end of the annual legislative session, unless extenuating circumstances are at play.

Once the older ban has been repealed, Arizona state law is set to reinstate a 2022 abortion-ban past a 15-week gestational period, although neither the 1864 ban nor the post Roe v. Wade-era ban permits exceptions to victims of sexual assault and incest. A pregnancy may only be terminated to prevent serious health risks, and can only occur after a 24-hour waiting period between mandatory abortion counseling and a second visit to the health center. This means that if a woman is 15 weeks and 6 days pregnant on the date of her initial visit, she will not be eligible for an abortion. Hence, the pregnant person must receive an abortion out of state, as telemedicine appointments are banned in Arizona. Arizona is situated between California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado, where abortions are accessible and confidential. 

The Committee to Protect Health Care, comprised of progressive medical professionals and pro-choice activists, continues to advocate for a reduced 24-week ban past the point of fetal viability through the Arizona Abortion Access Act. At the same time, the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal advocacy group expresses concern over the broader implications of the recent repeal of the 1864 ban and the fate of the pro-life movement at large. 

In Florida, its state supreme court recently ruled in favor of an even more restrictive 6-week ban. To receive an abortion past 6 weeks gestation, Floridians must travel to either North Carolina or Virginia, where little to no restrictions on abortion exist. The state law before May 1, 2024 was a 15-week ban consistent with that of the current legislation in Arizona, although the lack of certain exceptions for victims of rape and incest was a source of contention between Floridian voters. Hence, the current Florida state law permits exemptions for victims of rape and incest for 15 weeks, although it is important to note that Florida implemented a similar to Arizona 24-hour waiting period between the initial visit and the date of the procedure.

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