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Arizona Senate votes to repeal Civil War-era abortion ban

Arizona’s Republican-controlled Senate voted Wednesday to overturn the state’s 1864 ban on nearly all abortions. The vote paves the way for a repeal that would revert Arizona abortion law to a 15-week ban. Photo courtesy of AZcapitalmuseum.gov
Arizona’s Republican-controlled Senate voted Wednesday to overturn the state’s 1864 ban on nearly all abortions. The vote paves the way for a repeal that would revert Arizona abortion law to a 15-week ban. Photo courtesy of AZcapitalmuseum.gov

May 1 (UPI) -- Arizona's Republican-controlled Senate voted Wednesday to repeal the state's 1864 ban on nearly all abortions and revert state abortion law to a 15-week ban.

The measure, which needed two Republicans to vote with Democrats, passed by a vote of 16 to 14. The repeal of the state's 160 year-old abortion law now heads to the desk of Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs, who said Wednesday she will sign it.

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"Today, I am glad to see the Senate answered my call and voted to repeal Arizona's 1864 total abortion ban, and I look forward to quickly signing the repeal into law," Hobbs wrote in a statement shortly after the vote.

"This total abortion ban would have jailed doctors, threatened the lives of women across our state and stripped millions of Arizonans of their bodily autonomy. The devastating consequences of this archaic ban are why I've called for it to be repealed since day one of my administration," Hobbs added.

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Before Wednesday's vote, Republican Sen. Shawnna Bolick explained her pivotal vote in a 21-minute speech, which was interrupted by protests. Bolick told her own story of experiencing major complications during pregnancy and the medical intervention that would have been restricted under the 1864 law.

"Would Arizona's pre-Roe law have allowed me this medical procedure even though at the time my life was not in danger?" Bolick asked.

Republican T.J. Shope also voted for the repeal, despite Republican State Sen. Anthony Kern calling the 1864 law "the best abortion ban in the nation."

"We have two Republicans voting with the Democrats to repeal an abortion ban, while saying, 'I'm pro-life,'" Kern said.

Wednesday's Senate vote in Arizona comes one week after the state House passed the repeal by a vote of 32 to 28, as three Republicans joined with Democrats. It also comes three weeks after the 160 year-old law was revived by the state Supreme Court.

Former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, signed the state's 15-week abortion limit in 2022, three months before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade. But the nearly total abortion ban, dating back to 1864, had been codified in 1901. It remained in effect until 1973 when Roe vs. Wade made abortion a federal constitutional right.

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On April 9, Arizona's state Supreme Court upheld the Civil War era abortion law, making it a felony to perform an abortion and punishable by a prison term of between two and five years. The court found that the 2022 Arizona abortion ban was "predicated entirely on the existence of a federal constitutional right to an abortion," which after Roe v. Wade was overturned allowed the 1864 law to take precedent.

"Arizonans have been begging the legislature to take actions since the Supreme Court's ruling on April 9," said Democratic Sen. Anna Hernandez, who sponsored Senate bill 1734. "I'm glad that today we were able to continue the House's momentum and give HB 2677 the votes it needs to get to the governor's desk and be signed into law."

According to state Attorney General Kris Mayes, the 160 year-old abortion law is slated to go into effect on June 27, without a repeal.

"Today's vote by the Arizona Senate to repeal the draconian 1864 abortion ban is a win for freedom in our state," Mayes wrote Wednesday in a post on X. "I look forward to Governor Hobbs signing the repeal into law as soon as possible."

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