Arizona Republicans block repeal of 1864 abortion ban for second time

Arizona House Republicans have blocked an effort to repeal the state’s 1864 near-total abortion ban for a second time.

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled last week to uphold the state’s Civil War-era abortion ban, wiping out all access to abortion with the only exception being to save the life of the mother.

Now, women across the state have little to no access to abortion care and doctors who perform the procedure could be fined or sent to prison for between two and five years.

Many voters, including some Republicans, argue that the law is antiquated and an extreme restriction on the rights of women.

Even the Republican party’s presumptive presidential nominee former president Donald Trump has called for a more moderate solution to the ban, saying it has gone “too far”.

But, two efforts have now failed to repeal the ban in the state legislature – a move which would have returned Arizona to a 15-week ban.

The first repeal effort was blocked last week.

Then, on Wednesday, Democratic State Rep Stephanie Stahl Hamilton brought forward a bill to repeal the ban on the state House floor.

Republicans blocked the vote from even taking place, citing procedural grounds. Republicans did however allow a vote on whether the action to block it was correct, the Arizona Republic noted.

The Republican speaker of the Arizona state house Ben Toma said on Wednesday that “the last thing we should be doing today is rushing a bill through the legislative process to repeal a law that has been enacted and reaffirmed by the Legislature several times,” according to The New York Times.

Arizona State Speaker pro tempore Travis Grantham calls for order on the House floor on Wednesday 17 April at the state Capitol in Phoenix (AP)
Arizona State Speaker pro tempore Travis Grantham calls for order on the House floor on Wednesday 17 April at the state Capitol in Phoenix (AP)

Republicans only have a one-seat majority in the lower chamber in the state, meaning that only two Republicans would have needed to join Democrats for the repeal to move forward.

Before the vote, two Republicans had signalled that they would vote for a repeal. But only one, state Rep Matt Gress, voted with the Democrats to say that Republicans had been wrong to block Ms Hamilton’s motion. The 30-30 vote allowed Republicans to block the repeal.

Democratic Minnesota Senator Tina Smith wrote on X: “When people show you who they are, believe them. Republicans in Arizona just voted to keep their 1864 abortion ban because they think they know better than women whose lives and stories they’ll never know.”

Historian Aaron Astor added: “So it turns out Republican legislators in Arizona don’t want to repeal the 1864 territorial era abortion ban. I guess it will be up to the electorate in November to express itself directly. The result is likely going to be that the 15-week law will be superseded in the end too.”

Top Republicans, such as Mr Trump and failed 2022 gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, who is now running for the US Senate, have pushed for the Arizona state legislature to take action to revert the Civil-War era ban.