Arizona House, controlled by GOP, votes to repeal abortion ban from the Civil War era

The Arizona House made a significant move on Wednesday by passing a bill that aims to repeal the state’s long-standing near-total abortion ban, which has been in effect since 1864. This historic development saw several Republicans joining forces with their Democratic counterparts to support the legislation.

In just three weeks, the Republicans attempted to repeal the bill for the third time. However, their previous efforts to bring the bill to the floor were unsuccessful due to their blockage.

The bill was passed with a vote of 32-28, which marked a significant shift from the previous outcome. State Representatives Tim Dunn and Justin Wilmeth, both Republicans, decided to join forces with their Democratic counterparts, including state Representative Matt Gress. This unexpected alliance allowed them to bypass the Republican state Speaker Ben Toma and the rest of the GOP caucus.

In a surprising move, Gress stood alone as the sole Republican who joined forces with House Democrats in their push to repeal the abortion ban. A minimum of two Republicans were required to break party lines, and Gress was the only one to step forward.

The measure is now on its way to the Senate, where it requires the support of at least two Republicans in order to pass. However, the Senate has already taken steps to advance its own version of the repeal bill, which is identical to the one passed by the House. This indicates that the Senate could pass the bill as early as next week when the chamber convenes.

If the bill is passed, it will be sent to Gov. Katie Hobbs (D), who has urged the Legislature to repeal the law.

During the session, Toma criticized Hobbs and urged her to revoke the executive order that prohibits attorneys general from enforcing the law.

“I am deeply disappointed, as I have mentioned before, it seems that Democrats are of the belief that abortion should be allowed without any limits or regulations. I strongly disagree,” Toma expressed his disappointment when casting his vote. “The majority of Arizonans do not endorse unrestricted abortion.”

Republican lawmakers strongly criticized their party members who voted in favor of the Democrats.

“We are ready to sacrifice the lives of innocent infants just to secure a victory in an election. When we look at it from this perspective, it becomes quite difficult to accept, doesn’t it? Moreover, allowing abortion to be legalized up until the moment of birth will not contribute to our success in elections,” expressed state Representative Alexander Kolodin (R). “While politics holds significance, it should never come at the expense of our moral values.”

Arizona conservatives have found themselves in a political conundrum ever since the state Supreme Court revived the 1800s abortion law earlier this month, as Kolodin’s comments highlight.

Some Republicans, like former President Trump and Senate candidate Kari Lake, are advocating for the repeal of the ban that dates back to the Civil War era. They understand that the opposition to this law from various groups could potentially disrupt the conservative majorities in the state and have a negative impact on Trump’s campaign in this crucial swing state.

Lake’s stance on the 1864 measure has been inconsistent. During her campaign for governor of Arizona in 2022, she referred to it as a “great law.”

House Speaker Pro Tem Travis Grantham (R) expressed his pride in the Republican caucus for their unwavering resistance against the issue.

According to Grantham, the decision to enact this change so quickly was unnecessary. He believes that the timing is poor and disagrees with it wholeheartedly. Grantham expresses his hope that people are satisfied now, but he encourages them to vote against any future laws that aim to expand abortions in the state.

If the court were to repeal the 1864 ban, the state would go back to the 15-week ban that was invalidated.

The repeal, however, cannot take effect until 90 days after the legislative session concludes, and since there is no set end date for the session, it is uncertain when the 1864 law will officially come into effect. The earliest possible date for the law to be implemented is June 8.

The reinstatement of the 1864 ban by the state Supreme Court earlier this month sparked a nationwide outcry and prompted Republicans to confront their political stance on abortion. Many Republicans, who have consistently argued that abortion is morally indefensible, were compelled to reevaluate their position.

Arizona’s century-old law, enacted prior to the state’s establishment, imposes a felony charge on individuals involved in performing or assisting women in obtaining an abortion. Those found guilty may face imprisonment ranging from two to five years.

Abortion-rights supporters have been collecting signatures to propose a referendum on the ballot that seeks to safeguard access to abortion services up until the point of fetal viability, which is typically around 24 weeks into pregnancy.

Republicans are now proposing their own legislation aimed at restricting abortion, with a focus on limiting it to 15 weeks or even as early as six weeks. If both houses of the Legislature can successfully pass the same language, the measure would automatically be placed on the ballot in November.

Republican lawmakers fiercely opposed the bill, resulting in a session filled with loud and confrontational language.

Arizona state Representative David Marshall (R) has made baseless claims that the efforts to expand abortion access are driven by a “hidden racist agenda” aimed at controlling the population of Black women.

The information was last updated at 4:47 p.m. EDT.

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