Battle Over Abortion Law Continues in Arizona as Repeal Efforts Stalled

Arizona Republicans in the state House blocked a Democratic attempt for the second time in as many weeks to repeal a Civil War-era law that would effectively ban nearly all abortions in the battleground state. During a Wednesday legislative session, Democrats sought to push a repeal bill to the floor, but the efforts were repeatedly thwarted, resulting in four tied votes.

The decision by the Arizona Supreme Court last week to uphold the 1864 abortion ban triggered outrage, even among some prominent GOP figures like former President Donald Trump and Arizona U.S. Senate candidate Kari Lake, who opposed its enforcement. Despite this, Arizona lawmakers, including state Rep. Ben Toma (R), the speaker of the narrowly divided House, have stood firm, indicating their opposition to repeal.

“The last thing we should be doing today is rushing a bill through the legislative process to repeal a law that has been enacted and reaffirmed by the Legislature several times,” Toma said after the first vote failed, emphasizing that some believe abortion constitutes the “murder of children.”

Each of the four subsequent votes ended in a deadlock of 30-30, with one Republican, state Rep. Matt Gress, crossing party lines to join the chamber’s Democrats. As the House went into recess after the fourth vote, there remained a possibility that pro-repeal legislators could attempt another vote later in the day before adjournment.

The “clean repeal” bill, introduced by state Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (D) earlier this year, seeks to remove the 1864 law from the books, as reported by The Arizona Republic.

“We’ve got the eyes of the world watching the state of Arizona,” Hamilton said last week after an initial attempt to force a House vote on the bill fell short, despite Gress’ support. Following the day’s adjournment, several Democrats gathered on the floor to chant “shame!” and “blood on your hands!” at Republicans.

The revived abortion ban, upheld by the state’s highest court, imposes penalties of two to five years of jail time for providers, with exceptions only for cases where a doctor deems it necessary to save the life of the mother, without allowances for rape or incest.

In response to the vote outcome on Wednesday, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) reiterated her call for the legislature to repeal the law, asserting that a statute from 1864 authored by 27 men should not dictate the lives of Arizona women.

Sam Paisley, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee’s national press secretary, emphasized the urgency for legislative action, stating that Republicans have ignored calls to repeal the ban and will face consequences if the law takes effect.

The fate of the repeal bill now rests with the Arizona Senate, which is divided 16-14 in favor of Republicans. Even if the House manages to pass the bill, significant hurdles await in the Senate. State Rep. David Cook, another Arizona Republican, expressed support for repeal but emphasized the importance of adhering to legislative procedure.

“If we start doing away with all the rules, then why even have them to begin with?” Cook remarked to The Arizona Republic.

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