Arizona Republicans again block attempt to repeal 1864 abortion ban

April 17, 2024

Arizona House Republicans on Wednesday blocked an attempt to repeal the state’s 1864 near-total abortion ban, the second time in as many weeks Democrats were unable to get a vote on their repeal bill.

The move came despite pressure from influential conservatives including former President Trump and a top Trump ally, Senate hopeful Kari Lake, who have called on GOP leaders to overturn the ban.

In a procedural move, state House Democrats tried to make a motion to suspend House rules and bring the repeal bill up for floor consideration. But the move was shut down by the GOP majority. Only one Republican crossed party lines to vote in favor bringing up the repeal bill.

“Democrats have introduced this bill for six years and been ignored every single one of them, including this one. We had the opportunity to hear this in regular committee. We were ignored. We had the opportunity to hear this last week, we were ignored,” House assistant minority leader Rep. Oscar De Los Santos (D) said.

The vote was 30-30, meaning the motion failed.

“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 we affirmed by the legislature several times,” House Speaker Ben Toma (R) said on the floor as he voted against the motion.

“Abortion is a very complicated topic. It is ethically morally complex. I understand that we have deeply held beliefs. And I would ask everyone in this chamber to respect the fact that some of us who believe that abortion is in fact the murder of children,” Toma said.

If the 1864 ban were repealed, the state would revert to the 15-week ban that was invalidated by the court.

The state Supreme Court’s ruling last week to reinstate the 1864 ban caused a national uproar and forced a political reckoning among Republicans, many of whom have long said abortion is morally indefensible.

The century-old law, which was passed before Arizona became a state, makes abortion a felony punishable by two to five years in prison for anyone who performs or helps a woman obtain an abortion.

Republicans blocked a similar attempt to repeal the ban last week. After Democrats inside and outside the state spent the week continuously hammering the law, prominent Republicans like Trump and Lake saw the political danger and urged the Legislature to dial it back.

But when Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (D) rose to bring her motion on Wednesday, Republicans successfully blocked the vote on procedural grounds.

“I am frustrated because things of this nature that are very important and critical to Arizonans need to be heard and discussed. We’re talking about a bill that was passed before Arizona was even a state, before women had the right to vote,” Representative Alma Hernandez (D) said. “The fact that we will not even entertain a motion to allow those who have been raped or pregnant by incest to be able to have an abortion is extremely, extremely disappointing.”