Arizona Supreme Court Justice Bill Montgomery has recused himself from an upcoming case before the court regarding the state’s 1864 abortion ban.
Montgomery, who last week rejected a request from Planned Parenthood Arizona that he remove himself from the case, announced Thursday that he would not participate in the ruling after all.
“Additional information related to the parties and respective council has come to my attention,” Montgomery wrote in a court filing. “Warranting that I recuse myself from any further deliberations in this matter.”
Montgomery under scrutiny
Montgomery’s involvement in the case came under scrutiny after past statements of his came to light, where he called abortion a “grisly operation” and accused Planned Parenthood of genocide.
The first instance happened in 2012, when Montgomery, who was serving as Maricopa County Attorney at the time, defended Arizona’s 20-week abortion ban in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The court rejected his arguments and tossed out the 20-week ban. Montgomery appealed the case to the US Supreme Court, which declined to hear it based on the precedent set in Roe v. Wade.
“The ruling is disappointing in that it permits the [doctors] of the country to continue their grisly operations under legal protection,” Montgomery said at the time. “If the 9th Circuit cannot permit Arizona to act because of Supreme Court precedent, then the Supreme Court must change that precedent.”
Three years after describing abortion care as “grisly procedures,” Montgomery went after Planned Parenthood on social media.
“Planned Parenthood is responsible for the greatest generational genocide known to man,” Montgomery wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post. “They put King Herod to shame.”
Montgomery has never walked back or retracted his unfounded accusations against Planned Parenthood. According to a report by Phoenix New Times, Montgomery also accused the non-profit of selling the remains of embryos and fetuses during a 2015 anti-abortion protest outside Planned Parenthood’s Phoenix office.
In their recusal request, Planned Parenthood pointed to Montgomery’s consistent history of adversarial statements against their organization as justification for recusal.
“There can be no question that ‘reasonable minds’ would perceive Justice Montgomery’s public statement accusing PPAZ of ‘genocide’ as reflecting adversely on his impartiality,” the motion for recusal states. “There’s no question that ‘reasonable minds’ would perceive Justice Montgomery’s public statement accusing PPAZ of ‘atrocities’ while standing outside PPAZ’s headquarters amid an anti-PPAZ protest as reflecting adversely on his impartiality in a case where PPAZ is a party.”
Remaining justices to hear case
The six other justices on the state supreme court will hear arguments in the case on Dec. 12 and then decide whether or not to reinstate the pre-statehood total ban on abortion.
If the ban is enacted, abortion would be completely illegal in the state of Arizona, unless the procedure is necessary to save the life of the mother. The penalty for aiding and abetting an abortion procedure would be a minimum prison sentence of two years.
Regardless of the court’s decision, abortion rights groups are working on another avenue to protect reproductive rights in the state. Advocates have begun collecting signatures for a ballot proposition to amend the Arizona Constitution to make abortion access a protected right in the state.
If they get enough signatures to place the measure on the Nov. 2024 ballot and voters approve it, their effort would restore and expand the reproductive rights that were removed when the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year.
Those interested in signing the petition or volunteering with Arizona for Abortion Access can find more information on their website.
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