Arizona Democrats attempt to repeal the state’s 19th century abortion ban

For the third week in a row, Democrats in the Arizona Legislature are trying Wednesday to repeal a near-total abortion ban, once again spotlighting an issue that has put Republicans on the defensive in a presidential election battleground.

Republicans have used procedural votes to block previous attempts at repeal, each time drawing condemnation from Democratic President Joe Biden, who has made his support for abortion access central to his re-election campaign.

Arizona Republicans are under intense pressure from some conservatives in their base, who firmly support the abortion ban even as it has become an issue for swing voters who decide crucial races, including the presidency, the U.S. Senate and control of the Republican Party over the legislature.

The vote comes a day after Biden said former President Donald Trump, his presumptive Republican rival, created a “health crisis for women across the country” and jeopardized their access to health care.

The Arizona Supreme Court concluded that the state can enforce a long-dormant law that allows abortions only to save the life of the pregnant patient. The ruling suggested that doctors could be prosecuted under the law first passed in 1864, which carries a prison sentence of two to five years for anyone who assists in an abortion.

A week ago, a Republican in the Arizona House joined 29 Democrats to bring the repeal measure to a vote, but the effort failed twice on 30-30 votes. Democrats hope another Republican will cross party lines on Wednesday so the repeal bill can be voted on. There appears to be enough support for repeal in the Arizona Senate, but a final vote on May 1 is unlikely.

The law had been blocked since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling guaranteed the constitutional right to abortion nationwide.

After Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022, then-Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, convinced a state judge that the 1864 ban could be enforced. Yet the law has not yet been effectively enforced while the case was moving through the courts. Brnovich’s Democratic successor, Attorney General Kris Mayes, urged the state Supreme Court not to revive the law.

Mayes has said the earliest the law can be enforced is June 8, although the anti-abortion group defending the ban, Alliance Defending Freedom, maintains that prosecutors can begin enforcing it as soon as the Supreme Court’s decision becomes final, which expected to happen this week. .

If the proposed repeal receives final approval from the Republican-controlled Legislature and is signed by Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs, a 2022 statute banning the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy would become governing abortion law.

Planned Parenthood officials vowed to continue offering abortions for the short time they are still legal and said they will strengthen networks that help patients leave the state for places like New Mexico and California to access abortion.

Last summer, abortion rights advocates began asking Arizona voters to enact a constitutional right to abortion.

The proposed constitutional amendment would guarantee the right to abortion until a fetus can survive outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks. It would also allow subsequent abortions to save the parent’s life or protect her physical or mental health.

Republican lawmakers, in turn, are considering putting one or more competing abortion proposals on the November ballot.

A leaked planning document outlined approaches being considered by Republicans in the House of Representatives, which include codifying existing abortion regulations and proposing a 14-week ban that would be “disguised as a 15-week law” because abortions are beginning of the fifteenth week would be allowed. and a measure that would ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, before many people know they are pregnant.

Republicans in the House of Representatives have not yet publicly announced such proposed voting measures.