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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Carter Sherman

Arizona Republicans again block effort to repeal 1864 near-total abortion ban

White man clapping as white women look down, facing opposite directions.
Representatives applaud after blocking another effort to repeal the ban, on 17 April 2024 in Phoenix, Arizona. Photograph: Matt York/AP

After days of nationwide debate over the Arizona supreme court’s recent decision to uphold a near-total abortion ban from the 19th century, Arizona’s Republican-controlled statehouse has again quashed an effort to repeal the ban.

Republicans, who hold a one-seat majority in both the Arizona house and senate, on Wednesday shot down a procedural measure in the statehouse that would have enabled the chamber to vote on a bill to repeal the ban. Just one Republican, the representative Matt Gress, voted with the house’s 29 Democrats, but the 30-30 split was not enough to move forward.

Wednesday marked the second time that state legislators have tried to repeal the ban, which was first passed in 1864, since the state supreme court ruling. Last week, Gress tried to bring forth a vote on the repeal bill. However, he then voted with other Republicans to recess until Wednesday.

The ban, passed before Arizona became a state, only permits abortions to save a woman’s life. It does not have exceptions for rape or incest. Due to legal delays, it is not yet in effect; instead, Arizona currently bans abortion past 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The GOP has long been opposed to abortion, but the US supreme court’s overturning of Roe v Wade in 2022 has complicated their stance. Anger over Roe’s fall was credited with slowing a much-promised “red wave” in the 2022 midterms, as well as helping abortion-rights supporters win a string of ballot measures in red and purple states. Now, before the 2024 elections, many Republicans are attempting to moderate their previously hardline views.

After the Arizona supreme court’s decision last week, multiple Republicans with a history of anti-abortion beliefs denounced the ruling and the ban. Shawnna Bolick, a Republican state senator married to one of the justices who sided with the majority to uphold the 1864 ban, called on her colleagues to repeal it, as did Gress. Donald Trump, who appointed three of the US supreme court justices who overturned Roe and has said he believes each state should decide its own abortion laws, indicated that he believes the 1864 ban goes too far. Arizona’s ban, he suggested, will be “straightened out”.

Hours after the scuttled effort in the state house, Anna Hernandez, a Democratic state senator, successfully introduced a senate version of the repeal bill, which senate Democrats will now seek to advance. Due to the senate’s procedural rules, passing that bill will take multiple days.

Arizona abortion-rights supporters are continuing to gather signatures for a November ballot measure that would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution.

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