Arizona House passes repeal of 1864 abortion law, overcoming GOP blockade

The Arizona House on Wednesday narrowly voted to repeal a near-total abortion ban dating from 1864, capping three weeks of efforts that have galvanized national attention.

The 32-28 vote came after passionate speeches from most Republicans, who described abortion in graphic detail and as contrary to Republican values.

But their attempts to block the repeal failed when Republicans Matt Gress and Justin Wilmeth of Phoenix and Tim Dunn of Yuma joined with all 29 Democrats to pass House Bill 2677.

“Stop calling it archaic to ban abortions," said Rep. Barbara Parker, R-Mesa, referring to critics of the near-total abortion ban who constantly note it was enacted 160 years ago. "It's archaic to do abortions.”

Parker, like many of her fellow Republicans, called abortion murder because it does not respect the life of unborn children.

“I can hear their silent screams and with my voice, I vote no." Parker, R-Mesa, said.

Aside from the emotional comments, there was little reaction when the vote was finalized. Democrats and the three Republicans were silent as they cast their votes.

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But anger bubbled over when Gress motioned that the bill be sent to the Senate and have it returned without amendments so it could be immediately transmitted to Gov. Katie Hobbs for her action.

That motion failed, but it unleashed an immediate and angry response from Republicans who saw it as unnecessary and divisive.

Republican Speaker Pro Tem Travis Grantham said the motion "drives a knife" into the House chamber, which has endured three successive weeks of tense and dramatic debate over the law that the state Supreme Court upheld on April 9.

House Speaker Ben Toma immediately removed Gress, as well as Rep. Oscar De Los Santos, D-Phoenix, from the Appropriations Committee, a key panel that is pivotal to work on the state budget.

The vote turns attention to the state Senate, which is poised to take up the matter next Wednesday if there is agreement to bring it up for a vote. Last week, with little fanfare, the Senate started work on Senate Bill 1734, which is identical to the measure the House approved.

Reaction to the House vote was widespread and broke along ideological lines.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, which successfully defended the 1864 law before the state Supreme Court, expressed disappointment in a statement.

"Life is a human right, and it always will be," said senior counsel Jake Warner. "This doesn’t cease to be true because of a vote. We will continue to do everything we can to protect life and advocate for real support and real health care for women and families in Arizona and across the country."

Likewise, Cathi Herrod, president of the anti-abortion Center for Arizona Policy, was dismayed at the vote.

“I weep and I grieve for the lives of unborn children that are lost to abortion and for the lives of women that will be harmed by abortion,” Herrod said. She was a key advocate for ensuring that the 1864 law would take effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision, which it did in June 2022.

Chris Love, spokesperson for Arizona for Abortion Access initiative, called the House's vote "too little, too late." That's because the House didn't muster enough votes to pass the repeal on an emergency basis. If this were the case, it would allow the repeal to take effect as soon as Hobbs would sign it.

Instead, the 1864 law is set to have the force of law on June 8, well before HB2677 is expected to take effect.

Initiative backers said they'll press on with their efforts to get the measure on the Nov. 5 ballot and to convince Arizona voters why it's needed.

“One thing remains clear – anti-abortion politicians and architects of a scam to confuse voters cannot be trusted to give Arizonans the freedom to make their own deeply personal decisions about abortion," said Cheryl Bruce, campaign manager for Arizona for Abortion Access.

Attorney General Mayes said in a statement that she was glad "sanity prevailed at the House" and she urged the Senate to act quickly.

"That 160 year-old-law that criminalizes doctors and nurses for caring for their patients and endangers the lives and health of women across our state has no place in the 21st century," Mayes said.

Contributing: Ray Stern, Arizona Republic

Reach the reporter at or at 602-228-7566 and follow her on Threads as well as on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, @maryjpitzl.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona 1864 abortion ban repealed by House, now on to Senate