Arizona Republicans Shut Down Effort to Repeal 1864 Abortion Ban

“There is no reason to rush on this very important topic," one Republican said about the Civil War-era, total abortion ban that's set to take effect in weeks.

Arizona Republicans Shut Down Effort to Repeal 1864 Abortion Ban
The Arizona State House in Pheonix. Credit: Wikipedia Commons.

On Wednesday, in the quiet of the night, Arizona Republicans in the legislature shut down an effort to repeal the state’s Civil War-era abortion ban following Monday’s state Supreme Court ruling that the 1864 law can be enforced. In the state House, Republicans called for a recess and adjourned until next week, blocking a member of their own caucus—Rep. Matt Gress—from trying to initiate a vote on Democrats’ bill. Earlier in the day, in the state Senate, Republicans shut down a similar bill from Democrats, gaveling down a motion from Sen. Anna Hernandez (D).

“If you weren’t watching today, the @AZSenateGOP refused to recognize me to speak on the floor and refused to allow me to make a motion to repeal the territorial abortion ban in Arizona,” Hernandez wrote in a tweet, appropriately adding, “By their actions, the message from this chamber is that they are so pro-life they will kill you.”

Arizona Republicans have since attempted to simultaneously distance themselves from the 19th-century abortion ban while also obstructing the ban’s repeal. “We do not want to repeal the pre-Roe law without first having a conversation about it,” state Rep. Teresa Martinez (R) said on the House floor on Wednesday, according to HuffPost. “There is no reason to rush on this very important topic. We must listen to all viewpoints thoroughly.” Except… there very much is reason to rush on “this very important topic”—if no action is taken, the total abortion ban (which threatens to criminalize and imprison anyone who provides abortion care except to save the pregnant person’s life) is currently set to take effect 14 days after the state Supreme Court decision.

Because abortion bans—especially bans that predate Arizona’s status as a state and were established during slavery—are incredibly unpopular, Arizona Republicans maintain that they aren’t supporting the ban outright but simply need more time. Of course, according to Axios, state House Speaker Ben Toma (R) supports the 1864 law and has no plans to allow Democrats to bring forth a vote for its repeal, owing to his competitive primary in a heavily Republican district.

In a statement shared with Jezebel, Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Co-Chair Sen. Priya Sundareshan said she’s “disgusted by the actions” of her Republican peers, accusing them of “lying about their stance on this issue so important to Arizonans.” The imminent threat of the 1864 abortion ban brings this year’s election to the forefront: “This is why we need to flip the legislature, pass the ballot initiative, and stop Republicans from taking away this right ever again,” she said. At a Wednesday press conference, state Sen. Eva Burch (D), who shared her plan to get an abortion for her nonviable pregnancy on the Senate floor last month, emphasized the need for voters who might not otherwise vote for Democrats to vote for abortion rights this November: “We need you to understand that this is the issue of our times,” she said, per Axios.

In November, Arizona voters will vote on a ballot measure to enshrine a right to abortion in the state Constitution. Last week, Arizona abortion rights organizers announced that they’d collected 506,892 signatures, surpassing the 383,923 signature threshold to get on the ballot, though the signatures still need to be validated.

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes (D), who won her election by fewer than 300 votes in 2022, said on Monday that her office will not be enforcing the law: “Let me be completely clear, as long as I am Attorney General, no woman or doctor will be prosecuted under this draconian law in this state.” It’s an important policy position that underscores the value of every vote. But to be clear, local prosecutors could absolutely enforce the ban in their jurisdictions.

While the Civil War-era abortion ban highlights the urgent importance of the upcoming election, the reality is that pregnant people in Arizona can’t wait until November. Seven months is too long to endure life under a 19th-century law that predates women’s suffrage and abolition.

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