Arizona Legislature Expects New Efforts to Repeal 1864 Abortion Ban


Arizona lawmakers are preparing for a renewed attempt on Wednesday to repeal the state’s 1864 abortion ban, which was upheld by the State Supreme Court last week in a ruling that exacerbated all the personal emotions and political firestorms surrounding abortion in a battleground state.

The court last Tuesday upheld the Civil War-era law, which bans nearly all abortions. The ruling infuriated supporters of abortion rights and presented a grave political threat to Republicans, who narrowly control both houses of the State Legislature.

Democrats’ immediate attempts to repeal the ban failed last week. A Republican member of the House had sided with Democrats and put forward a measure to repeal it, but G.O.P. leadership adjourned, delaying any action for a week since the Legislature currently meets only on Wednesdays.

As a second attempt at repeal looms, both parties are scrambling to count votes and game out legislative strategies to determine whether Democrats have found enough Republican support to strike down the law.

Former President Donald J. Trump last week called on legislators to “act immediately to remedy what has happened,” as Democrats slammed the ban as another sign of Republican extremism in a pivotal state in this fall’s election. The ban allows only an exception to save the life of the mother. Doctors prosecuted under the law could face fines and prison terms of two to five years.

Democrats likely need only two or three Republicans to vote with them to repeal the law. Activists and lobbyists have jockeyed behind the scenes to sway — or hold — the handful of Republican lawmakers whose actions could determine the law’s fate. A variety of procedural elements could also disrupt a repeal’s chance of advancing. If the House is able to pass a repeal, it is expected to head to the Senate later on Wednesday.

Democrats gained a new House member on Tuesday, when Junelle Cavero was unanimously appointed by the Board of Supervisors in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, to fill a vacancy for a Democrat who resigned in April. She is expected to be sworn in early on Wednesday, in time for the repeal fight on the floor. Accounting for her vote, Republicans will control the House 31 to 29.

The court decision and subsequent backlash has exposed divisions among Arizona Republicans over their support for abortion restrictions. And it has highlighted how abortion has become a political vulnerability for Republicans since the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022, even in traditionally conservative states. Several Republican legislators recently signaled that they might support Democrats to repeal the law.

The Center for Arizona Policy, an influential anti-abortion group, along with a coalition of like-minded local and national groups, has been pushing Republicans to keep the law in place. Cathi Herrod, the group’s president, urged Republicans to maintain their staunch anti-abortion principles from before Roe fell, even as the political foundations have greatly shifted.

Supporters and critics of the 1864 ban are planning dueling protests at the Capitol on Wednesday as the Legislature meets.

Kim Miller, who is the founder of Arizona Women for Action and supports the 1864 abortion ban, emailed her group’s list on Tuesday, urging supporters to peacefully attend the floor sessions.

“Our state Capitol has been unhinged over what to do,” she wrote in the newsletter. “We have a powerful enemy, so the most powerful call to action is humility, prayer and discernment.”

Abortion rights supporters are expected to speak after the House session starts and before the Senate meets. Dawn Penich, a spokeswoman for Arizona for Abortion Access, the coalition organizing a ballot measure that would enshrine abortion rights in the state Constitution, called on lawmakers to repeal the ban.

“Every day they don’t proves what we’ve been saying all along, that the only way Arizonans can trust their rights are secure,” is through the ballot measure, she said. “The only way to secure our freedoms is to take this decision away from politicians and let patients, their providers and families decide for themselves.”

Jack Healy contributed reporting.



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