BREAKING NEWS

Arizona Senate repeals 160 year old abortion ban

May 1, 2024, 2:22 PM | Updated: May 3, 2024, 10:45 am

Demonstrators carry pro-life posters outside the Arizona Capitol. The Arizona Senate has just repea...

FILE - Pro-life demonstrators walk in the front of the Arizona Capitol prior to the vote on the proposed repeal of the state's near-total ban on abortions prior to winning approval from the state House on, April 24, 2024, in Phoenix. Democrats at the Arizona Legislature are expected to make a final push Wednesday, May 1, to repeal the state’s long-dormant ban on nearly all abortions that a court said can be enforced. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

PHOENIX (AP) — Democrats secured enough votes in the Arizona Senate on Wednesday to repeal a Civil War-era ban on abortions that the state’s highest court recently allowed to take effect.

Voting wasn’t complete but the Senate had the 16 votes it needed to advance the bill.

Fourteen Democrats in the Senate were joined by two Republican votes in favor of repealing the bill, which narrowly cleared the Arizona House last week and is expected to be signed by Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs.

The near-total ban, which predates Arizona’s statehood, permits abortions only to save the patient’s life — and provides no exceptions for survivors of rape or incest. In a ruling last month, the Arizona Supreme Court suggested doctors could be prosecuted under the 1864 law, which says that anyone who assists in an abortion can be sentenced to two to five years in prison.

If the repeal bill is signed, a 2022 statute banning the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy would become Arizona’s prevailing abortion law. Still, there would likely be a period when nearly all abortions would be outlawed, because the repeal won’t take effect until 90 days after the end of the legislative session, likely in June or July.

Several senators spoke about their motivations for voting as numbers were tallied on the repeal bill.

“This is a clear statement that the Legislature does not want the territorial ban to be enforceable,” said Democratic state Sen. Priya Sundareshan, who voted yes to repeal.

Arizona state Attorney General Kris Mayes called the vote “a win for freedom in our state,” but expressed concern that without an emergency clause, Arizonans would still be subject to the near total-abortion ban for some time.

“Rest assured, my office is exploring every option available to prevent this outrageous 160-year-old law from ever taking effect,” she said.

There were numerous disruptions from people in Senate gallery, as Republican state Sen. Shawnna Bolick explained her vote in favor of repeal, joining with Democrats.

GOP state Sen. Jake Hoffman denounced Republican colleagues for joining with Democratic colleagues, calling it an affront to his party’s principles.

“It is disgusting that this is the state of the Republican Party today,” Hoffman said.

Advocates on both sides of the abortion issue arrived outside the Arizona Senate on Wednesday to emphasize their views. They included people affiliated with Planned Parenthood and faith-based groups opposed to abortion.

A school-age girl kneeled in prayer in front of a table holding a large statute of the Virgin Mary, while a man with a megaphone shouted at passersby to repent.

“I am expecting it will be repealed, but I am praying it won’t be,” said Karen Frigon, who was handing out brochures from the Arizona Right to Life.

Arizona is one of a handful of battleground states that will decide the next president. Former President Donald Trump, who has warned that the issue could lead to Republican losses, has avoided endorsing a national abortion ban but said he’s proud to have appointed the Supreme Court justices who allowed states to outlaw it.

The law had been blocked since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion nationwide.

When Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022 though, then-Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, persuaded a state judge that the 1864 ban could again be enforced. Still, the law hasn’t actually been enforced while the case was making its way through the courts. Mayes, who succeeded Brnovich, urged the state’s high court against reviving the law.

Planned Parenthood officials vowed to continue providing abortions for the short time they are still legal and said they will reinforce networks that help patients travel out of state to places like New Mexico and California to access abortion.

Advocates are collecting signatures for a ballot measure allowing abortions until a fetus could survive outside the womb, typically around 24 weeks, with exceptions — to save the parent’s life, or to 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 the approaches being considered by House Republicans, such as codifying existing abortion regulations, proposing a 14-week ban that would be “disguised as a 15-week law” because it would allow abortions until the beginning of the 15th week, and a measure that would prohibit abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, before many people know they’re pregnant.

House Republicans have not yet publicly released any such proposed ballot measures.

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Arizona Senate repeals 160 year old abortion ban