Arizona’s Hobbs signs repeal of 1864 abortion ban

May 2, 2024

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) signed legislation Thursday repealing the state’s 1864 abortion ban, one day after it passed the GOP-controlled Senate. 

However, the repeal won’t take effect until 90 days after the state legislature adjourns for the year, and there is no end date in sight. That means it’s likely the 1864 law will still go into effect before that 90-day period is up. 

The state Supreme Court initially delayed enactment of the 1864 ban for two weeks, but due to separate judicial activity, the Civil War-era law won’t be fully enforceable until June 27 at the earliest. 

“While I am proud to sign this bill and provide a moment of relief for Arizonans, we still have work to do,” Hobbs said. “The level of chaos and confusion that will occur from multiple bans at different times… we know how terrible this ban will be and we’re going to do everything possible to make sure it doesn’t go into effect.”  

Arizona became the latest battleground state to grapple with abortion access when the state Supreme Court last month upheld the ban on nearly all abortions in the state, except in instances to save the life of the mother. The law also imposed jail time for physicians who perform abortions.  

The law, which was first passed before Arizona even became a state, was never repealed and remained on the books for decades. In April, the GOP-appointed Supreme Court ruled 4-2 that the ban can be enforced because Roe v. Wade had been overturned.  

Once the repeal is official, the state would revert to the 15-week ban signed into law by former Gov. Doug Ducey (R) in 2022. Like the 1864 ban, the 15-week law does not make any exceptions for rape or incest.

Hobbs on Thursday said abortion is a bipartisan issue, but argued the decision by some Republicans to help Democrats pass the repeal bill was “political opportunism.”

On Wednesday, two GOP senators crossed party lines to give Democrats the majority needed to pass the bill. Last week, three Republicans in the state House joined with Democrats to pass the bill.

Some Republicans have recognized that backlash against the 1864 law could upend conservative majorities in the state and hurt former President Trump’s campaign in the crucial swing state. They also want to try to curtail the momentum behind a likely ballot measure that would constitutionally legalize abortion up to fetal viability, with medical exceptions for women who are further along. 

Abortion-rights advocates have been gathering signatures to place a referendum on the ballot in November that would protect access until the point of fetal viability, or roughly 24 weeks of pregnancy.  

In the interim, abortion rights advocates and Attorney General Kris Mayes (D) are trying to delay the ruling as much as possible. 

On Tuesday, Mayes filed a motion for the court to stay a final mandate for 90 days.  

Shortly after the state Senate voted Wednesday in favor of repealing the ban, Planned Parenthood Arizona filed a motion with the state Supreme Court requesting that it stay its final order in the case until the repeal can be implemented.