The Arizona House votes to repeal the near-total ban on abortion

Lawmakers in the Arizona House of Representatives have voted to repeal a controversial 1864 law banning nearly all abortions, amid mounting pressure on the state’s Republicans.

Three Republicans joined all 29 Democrats on Wednesday to support repealing the law, which predates Arizona’s statehood and provides no exceptions for rape or incest.

The move follows weeks of efforts by Democrats in the state Legislature to overturn the law, as the issue increasingly put Republicans on the defensive in a presidential election battleground.

The measure will now head to the Senate, where it is expected to pass, and then to the governor’s desk.

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that the state could 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, which was first passed in 1864, and that anyone who assists with an abortion could face a prison sentence of two to five years.

The ruling put enormous pressure on Republicans in the state, who are under fire from some conservatives in their base who strongly support the abortion ban, and from swing voters who strongly oppose the measure and decide crucial races, including the presidency. the U.S. Senate and the Republican Party’s control of the legislature.

Some prominent Republicans, including Republican Senate candidate Kari Lake, have spoken out against the ban. But Republicans in the state House repeatedly blocked Democratic lawmakers’ efforts to repeal the law.

A week ago, a Republican in the Arizona House of Representatives joined 29 Democrats to bring the repeal measure to a vote, but the effort failed twice on 30-30 votes.

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes’ office on Tuesday asked the state Supreme Court to reconsider its decision, the Arizona Republic reported.

Abortion rights advocates protested in Scottsdale earlier this month. Photo: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

On Wednesday, dozens of people gathered outside the capital before the House and Senate were set to convene. Many of them carried signs or wore shirts showing their opposition to abortion rights.

Anti-abortion protesters sang Amazing Grace and chanted “shame on you,” Axios’ Jeremy Duda reported.

The AZ House does not meet until 10 a.m., but the room is already full. Pro-life people are taking full advantage of their ability to make noise before lawmakers come to the floor and sing “Amazing Grace” and “Shame on you!” to sing.

— Jeremy Duda (@jeremyduda) April 24, 2024

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The AZ House does not meet until 10 a.m., but the room is already full. Pro-life people are taking full advantage of their ability to make noise before lawmakers come to the floor and sing “Amazing Grace” and “Shame on you!” to sing.

— Jeremy Duda (@jeremyduda) April 24, 2024

Some Republicans were critical of their colleagues’ move to side with Democrats on repealing the ban.

“I’m disgusted today,” said Rachel Jones, a Republican representative who voted against repeal. “Life is one of the tenets of our Republican platform. To see people going back on that value, I think is egregious.”

The Civil War-era 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 was not actually enforced while the case was moving through the courts.

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If Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs’ proposed repeal is signed into law, a 2022 statute banning the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy would become governing abortion law.

Many abortion providers in the state had pledged to continue offering the procedure until the ban took effect. In neighboring California, providers were preparing to treat patients from Arizona seeking abortion care.

Anti-abortion rights protesters in Scottsdale last week. Photo: Rebecca Noble/Reuters

The battle over abortion access in Arizona will ultimately be decided in November. Abortion rights advocates are pushing to ask Arizona voters to enact a constitutional right to abortion. They have collected about 500,000 signatures, more than the nearly 384,000 needed to put it on the ballot.

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, including codifying existing abortion rules 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.

Reproductive rights advocates say the issue has mobilized voters, reporting people are looking for signature gatherers and asking for locations where their friends and family can sign to put abortion access on the ballot.

‘I’ve had women imagine three children and draw them. And I tell them that mothers are the most important signature here, because they understand what this issue is, and what pregnancy does to the body, what pregnancy does to your life,” Susan Anthony, who collected signatures in Arizona, told the Guardian.

The Associated Press is a contributorD report