Arizona Democratic governor signs bill repealing 1864 abortion ban

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs signed legislation Thursday repealing the state’s 160-year-old near-total abortion ban, setting the stage for a 15-week restriction to remain law.

The Democratic governor signed the bill one day after it passed the GOP-held Senate, where two Republicans joined with all 14 Democrats in the chamber to advance the measure. The hourslong debate over the bill grew contentious as Republicans blasted the two defectors and railed against Democrats and a potential fall ballot initiative that would enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution.

At a signing ceremony Thursday, Hobbs and other Democratic leaders framed the repeal as the first step in a larger struggle over reproductive rights.

“Today, we should not rest,” the governor said. “We should recommit to protecting women’s bodily autonomy, their ability to make their own health care decisions and the ability to control their lives.”

The repeal is a victory for abortion rights advocates, who have for years tried to overturn the 1864 law that banned abortion at all stages of pregnancy, except to save a mother’s life, and threatened providers with two to five year prison sentences.

But the immediate future of abortion access in the state is unclear.

The Arizona Supreme Court’s April 9 ruling, which found that the state had to adhere to the century-old law, was not going to be enforceable until June 27 at the earliest, according to Arizona’s Democratic attorney general, Kris Mayes.

Meanwhile, the repeal measure will not take effect until 90 days after the Arizona Legislature adjourns later this year, meaning the Civil War-era abortion ban could come into effect for some time.

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