Arizona Legislature Passes Repeal Of 1864 Abortion Ban

The Arizona Senate on Wednesday repealed the 1864 near-total abortion ban that the state Supreme Court greenlighted in a shock ruling last month.

The state Senate voted to pass the repeal in a close vote, 16-14, with two Republicans voting to repeal the near-total ban. The state House voted to repeal the ban last week, and Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) is expected to sign the repeal soon. A spokesperson for the governor said she will not sign the repeal on Wednesday.

The majority of Republicans were frustrated with Democrats, who they claimed were “rolling” or fast-tracking the bill. There were no initial readings of the bill, although state Sen. Anna Hernandez (D) read the one-line bill on the floor during discussion.

The floor debate over the repeal spurred outbursts from both Democrats and Republicans, as well as people from the public watching the vote from the gallery. One Republican, state Sen. Wendy Rogers, said the 1864 abortion ban “got it right,” suggesting that life then is the same as life in 2024. State Sen. Anthony Kern (R) agreed, adding that the abortion ban that predates Arizona statehood was the “best abortion ban in the nation.” Kern also compared repealing the 150-year-old abortion ban to the Holocaust.

While the vote is a huge turning point for abortion rights advocates in the state, the ban will unfortunately still be in effect for a window of time. The ban prohibits nearly all abortions except for when the pregnant person’s life is at risk. It also carries a felony punishment of two to five years in prison for providers.

Despite the repeal, the near-total abortion ban will go into effect — likely as early as June 27, according to the state’s Attorney General Kris Mayes (D). The repeal, once signed by Hobbs, will not go into effect until 90 days after the current legislative session ends. The legislative session doesn’t have a specific end date; in past years the session has ended in late June, but in 2023 the session didn’t end until August.

The near-total abortion ban could potentially be in effect through the summer and fall, possibly even through the general election in November.

Mayes has vowed to not enforce the abortion ban during the window it’s in effect.

“Make no mistake: Democrats’ fierce persistence against weeks of Republican obstruction is the only reason the 1864 ban was repealed and this shows a clear contrast in leadership,” Heather Williams, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee president, said in a statement.

“As Republicans regroup to defend their 15-week ban and work to undermine the upcoming abortion ballot measure in Arizona, we are focused on flipping the two seats in each chamber that will deliver Democratic majorities in Arizona’s legislature,” she added. “The only way to protect and expand reproductive freedoms in Arizona is to elect Democrats to the state legislature.”

Abortion rights groups in the state are working to get a pro-choice amendment on the ballot. Although the state legislature has historically been hostile towards direct democracy actions, the coalition behind the amendment is optimistic it will be on the ballot in November. The amendment seeks to enshrine abortion access until fetal viability, or 24 weeks, into the state constitution.