The AZ Senate Has Repealed The 1864 Abortion Ban, After 2 Republicans Join Dems

Gloria Rebecca Gomez, Arizona Mirror

A 160-year-old abortion ban written before Arizona became a state that punishes doctors with prison time is now one step away from being repealed after a pair of Republicans in the state Senate on Wednesday crossed party lines to join Democrats in voting it down.

On April 9, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that a near-total ban from 1864, which forbids all abortions except to save a woman’s life, trumps one passed in 2022 that strictly limits procedures performed after 15 weeks of gestation. That decision roiled the state’s political landscape, and a movement to repeal the law, supported mostly by Democratic lawmakers, emerged in the Arizona legislature.

Last week, following multiple blocked attempts, the state House of Representatives successfully voted to repeal the law, and on Wednesday the state Senate finalized that effort.

After Republican Sens. Shawnna Bolick and T.J. Shope broke away from their party to side with   Democrats, House Bill 2677, which seeks to repeal the 1864 law, was approved by a vote of 16-14. The measure is now on Gov. Katie Hobbs’ desk, and the Democrat has vowed to sign it. A spokesman for her office said that she will do so on Thursday.

In the Senate, the bill’s passage followed nearly three hours of heated debate, during which anti-abortion supporters in the gallery and Republican lawmakers on the floor excoriated Bolick and Shope for their votes.

Sen. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, said it was “insanity” that the duo claim to be pro-life while voting in a way that violates the core values of the Republican party and allows abortions to continue in Arizona. Repealing the 1864 law means that the 15-week law, which permits elective abortions up to its gestational deadline, will take effect instead.

“The craziest thing I’ve seen and heard is, ‘I’m pro-life, yet I’m going to vote to repeal the abortion ban.’ It’s insanity to me,” Kern said.

Sen. Jake Hoffman, who heads up the far-right Arizona Freedom Caucus, said the near-total abortion ban is “one of the best, strongest, pro-life measures in the country”, and that the law is “representative of and reflective of our founding fathers’ intent.”

That two Republicans crossed party lines to end that ban, Hoffman said, is unconscionable.

“It is disgusting that this is the state of the Republican Party today,” he said.

And Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa, called on voters to take note of Shope and Bolick bucking their party.

“Voters need to be aware when this happens —- when we lose our conservative unity and Senators join the other side,” he said.

Bolick, who is the wife of Clint Bolick, one of the four Supreme Court Justices who reinstated the 1864 law, defended her decision to repeal it by describing her history with pregnancy. One of her pregnancies, she explained, was unviable and ended in a D&C, a surgical procedure used in about half of abortions.

She said she was unconvinced that the 1864 law would allow women facing similar health issues to get the care they need. The law’s exception is strictly reserved for immediately life-threatening emergencies, but outlaws abortions aimed at preventing injury to a woman.

“Many women don’t have textbook pregnancies,” Bolick said.

Shope, meanwhile, did not explain his vote and refused to answer questions from reporters afterwards.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

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