The law, which bans all abortions after 15 weeks except when the mother's life is in danger, was passed by the state legislature and signed by Republican Governor Doug Ducey in March 2022. Just three months later, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to an abortion, paving the way for the law to take effect.
"Under this construction, our contemporary statutes permit physicians to perform elective abortions up to fifteen weeks but only in conformity with a host of exacting regulations," Judge Garye Vasquez said in the decision. "Our original law continues to outlaw abortions under all circumstances not permitted by that subsequent legislation."
"This construction results in a coherent and easily applied statutory scheme," he continued. "It is the only construction that comports with the legislature’s direction that each of the statutes regulating abortion continue to have force and effect."
The court also ruled that doctors who carry out abortions cannot be prosecuted under a 19th-century law that prohibited nearly all abortions, following a request from Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) to set aside an injunction that prevented its enforcement.
“Brnovich’s reading would effectively render [the 15-week abortion ban’s] regulation of elective abortion all but meaningless because there would be no legal elective abortions,” the court said.
The state's incoming Attorney General, Democrat Kris Mayes, had campaigned on a promise not to prosecute abortion providers in face of state law. However, Democrats will likely be unable to overturn the law after Republicans retained control of the state legislature.