Phoenix/ Politics & Govt
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Published on June 22, 2024
Arizona Repeals 1864 Abortion Ban, Nullifying Need for Emergency Licenses in California for Arizona DoctorsSource: Gage Skidmore, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In a recent shift of legal landscapes, the state of Arizona has seen the repeal of a dated 1864 abortion ban, originally set into motion well before the territory's induction as a state. This decision has consequently reduced the need for Arizona doctors to obtain emergency licenses in California, a measure that was originally offered to support healthcare providers in a period of restrictive abortion laws. Notably, in the weeks following the temporary revival of the ban, no Arizona doctors have opted to apply for such licenses.

In an act of solidarity, California opened its doors to Arizona physicians by providing them the means to quickly obtain emergency licenses to continue abortion care. The initiative, however intended to provide immediate relief, did not see practical uptake. As reported by Cronkite News, "It honestly seems kind of useless," said Dr. Gabrielle Goodrick, medical director of Camelback Family Planning in Phoenix. The state's current 15-week abortion ban, enacted in 2022, has likely also played a role in the lack of interest, as statistics from the Pew Research Center indicate that the majority of abortions occur by the 13th week of pregnancy.

California has historically positioned itself as a defender of reproductive rights, especially in stark contrast to neighboring states with more restrictive policies. California lawmakers saw the licensure measure as a demonstration of this stance. "The last thing we want to have is women not having the reproductive rights that we do here in California," state Rep. Cecilia Aguiar-Curry told Cronkite News. Despite the well-meaning offer, practicalities may have curbed its utility, with some Arizona advocates and medical providers suggesting that maintaining services in both states could prove challenging.

The repeal of the 1864 abortion law in Arizona marks a significant rollback of prohibitions that have existed in a latent legal text since the Civil War era. Monica Vargas, a spokesperson for California's Department of Consumer Affairs, confirmed that no emergency licenses have been requested from either the Medical Board of California or the Osteopathic Medical Board, essentially rendering the law redundant with a previous 2022 statute that already allowed for expedited licensing. Eloisa Lopez, executive director of Pro-Choice Arizona and the Abortion Fund of Arizona, corroborated this finding, saying she was unaware of any interest in the expedited licensure from California.

Though none have taken up the offer, the existence of California's emergency licensure can nonetheless be viewed as a testament to the state's ongoing commitment to ensuring access to reproductive health services. The repeal in Arizona and the lack of uptake in California highlight the complex and ever-evolving interplay between state laws and the practicalities facing healthcare providers in the context of abortion care provision.