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Planned Parenthood asks court to put ruling outlawing abortion in Arizona on hold pending appeal

Arizona Republic 9/27/2022 Mary Jo Pitzl, Arizona Republic
Brittany Fonteno, president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of AZ, speaks during a press conference at the Arizona state Capitol in Phoenix on Aug. 24, 2022, highlighting the importance of abortion access as well as Republican nominee for U.S. Senate Blake Masters' support for a national abortion ban. © Alex Gould/The Republic Brittany Fonteno, president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of AZ, speaks during a press conference at the Arizona state Capitol in Phoenix on Aug. 24, 2022, highlighting the importance of abortion access as well as Republican nominee for U.S. Senate Blake Masters' support for a national abortion ban.

Planned Parenthood Arizona on Monday asked a Pima County court to put on hold last week's ruling that effectively outlawed most abortions in Arizona.

The emergency motion filed in Pima County Superior Court comes three days after a Pima County Superior Court judge lifted the injunction on a territorial-era law, which prescribes prison terms for abortion providers with the only exception allowed for saving the life of the mother.

The organization noted in its filing widespread confusion over the the many Arizona abortion laws enacted in the past 50 years since the U.S. Supreme Court issued the Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion up until a fetus could survive outside of the womb.

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The confusion extends to a bill passed earlier this year, which criminalized abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Gov. Doug Ducey's office has noted the bill became law Saturday — 90 days after the legislative session ended —but has not addressed how it fits with last week's ruling. 

Attorney General Mark Brnovich offered a different take on Arizona's current abortion-law landscape. In a statement Monday, he said Judge Kellie Johnson's Friday ruling is the prevailing law in the state, overriding the bill that Ducey signed earlier this year.

"If Arizonans disagree with the law, they should contact their legislators or the governor," Brnovich said in the statement.

Planned Parenthood cited these differing views in explaining why it is seeking an emergency stay.

"This confusion has forced Planned Parenthood Arizona to pause abortion services and cancel appointments scheduled this week — meaning that members of our community once again have been and will continue to be denied medical care that they deserve and need while this decision is in effect," Brittany Forteno, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona said in a statement. "This is unacceptable."

In its emergency request, Planned Parenthood said it would not harm Arizonans to put Friday's decision on hold while waiting to sort out which law governs, as it serves the public interest to provide clarity.

"It can hardly be disputed that a serious question exists over how Arizona's laws interact," Planned Parenthood attorneys wrote. 

They asked for an emergency stay of Johnson's Friday ruling until they can file a formal appeal.

"This confusion is untenable and creates serious due process concerns," the attorneys wrote. 

For example, the territorial-era law and the law legislators approved this year conflict on exceptions to abortion, adding to the confusion, they state. That could lead to doctors hesitating to provide care to pregnant patients. 

"The absence of a stay will deprive many pregnant Arizonans of health care they require for an indeterminate period of time, while this case makes its way through the appellate process," the motion states.

Reach the reporter at maryjo.pitzl@arizonarepublic.com and follow her on Twitter @maryjpitzl.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Planned Parenthood asks court to put ruling outlawing abortion in Arizona on hold pending appeal

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