Arizona takes major step toward repealing near-total abortion ban from 1864

The Arizona house has voted to repeal a 160 year-old law banning abortion, a major victory for the Democrat-led effort to take the law off the books.

Republicans had thwarted two earlier attempts to vote on ending the law, which bans abortions from conception without exceptions for rape or incest.

Three members of the party, though, broke ranks on Wednesday to vote for repeal in the narrowly divided house.

The bill now moves to the senate, where there is a good chance it will pass.

Earlier this month, the state’s supreme court resurrected the 1864 law, unleashing an outcry across the country, where voters broadly support abortion access.

Last week, two Republican senators voted to advance a similar bill. That suggests there is enough Republican support in the senate to get the repeal through.

Arizona’s Governor Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, has indicated she will sign the bill if it reaches her desk.

With the ban scheduled to go back into effect in June, lawmakers who oppose it are under deadline pressure.

“The people of Arizona are waiting for us to get this done,” said House Representative Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, who introduced the one-sentence repeal bill.

The ban also created a political dilemma for Republicans staring down general elections in November, for whom abortion has been a losing issue since the US Supreme Court overturned the nationwide right to abortion in 2022.

Some Republicans, such as former President Donald Trump, have distanced themselves from the ban and called for compromise.

Others, including Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma, have defended it.

“Some of us believe that abortion is in fact the murder of children,” Mr Toma said on the house floor last week.

Legislator Matt Gress, one of the three Republicans to vote with Democrats on Wednesday, said in a statement that ban was “unworkable” and “out of line with the values of Arizonans”.

Soon after the vote, Mr Gress was reportedly removed from the appropriations committee by Mr Toma.

If the repeal effort fails in the senate, the 1864 ban will likely take effect on 8 June.

If the ban is lifted, then Arizona’s 15-week abortion ban that is currently in place would remain the law of the land.

But Arizona voters may have another chance to weigh in, with a ballot initiative that aims to protect abortion rights until 24 weeks of pregnancy. Activists say they have already met the signature threshold required to put the question to voters this autumn.

Source: BBC

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