Health Care

Arizona Senate votes to repeal 1860s abortion ban

The measure now heads to the governor, who has said she’ll sign it.
The Arizona Senate building at the state Capitol stands, April 11, 2024, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Two Arizona Senate Republicans sided with Democrats in voting for a bill to repeal an 1864 law that banned virtually all abortions, sending it to the governor just weeks after the state Supreme Court ruled that the Civil War-era ban could be enforced.

The 16-14 vote Wednesday finished after hours of emotional and sometimes personal debate. The GOP-controlled House narrowly passed the measure last week.

Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) has said she will sign it.

“I have compassion for a woman who has been raped, or incest,” Senate Majority Leader Warren Petersen (R) said. “I have compassion for that. But I cannot go against my core value of life.”

Several Republicans detailed their own experience with miscarriages and traumatic pregnancies to demonstrate they understood the difficulties associated with childbirth but thought they were worth enduring.

”It is not my job as a state senator to determine when a child’s heart stops beating,” Sen. Justine Wadsack (R) said.

Republicans also objected to a procedural motion that allowed the bill to bypass the typically lengthy committee hearing process and immediately receive a full floor vote.

“This is what it looks like when you get rolled,” Sen. Jake Hoffman (R) said. “And it doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it is always to the detriment of the people of this state.”

When the bill is signed, a 2022 statute banning the abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy would become Arizona’s prevailing abortion law, the Associated Press reported, adding that there would likely be a period when nearly all abortions would be outlawed, because the repeal won’t take effect until 90 days after the end of the legislative session, likely in June or July.

Democrats celebrated the vote to repeal the ban.

“I don’t want us honoring laws about women, written during a time when women were forbidden from voting because their voices were considered inferior to men,” Sen. Eva Burch (D) said. “I appreciate the passionate religious convictions of members who have risen to announce their faith. I respect it. My beliefs are different from yours. I’m not afraid of the abortions that I had. Do not fear for my soul. They were the right decisions for me and I don’t have to follow your religion in this country.”

The state Supreme Court’s ruling put Republicans in an unwelcome political bind, just months before an election in which Arizona is at the heart of the battles for control of the White House and Congress.

In the state legislature, which is on the ballot in November, Republicans hold just a 31-29 advantage in the House and a 16-14 edge in the Senate.

Abortion rights advocates are also collecting signatures for a November ballot measure that would allow voters to decide on a constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights.