Arizona House votes to repeal near-total abortion ban from 1864

Arizona lawmakers Wednesday voted to repeal an unpopular near-total abortion ban that was enacted in 1864.

The Republican-controlled state house voted 32-28 to approve repealing the draconian, 160-year-old law after a handful of GOP lawmakers defected to join Democrats.

The bill now moves on to the state Senate. The GOP also narrowly controls that body, but it recently voted in favor of a similar resolution. That means the pre-Civil War law should be on track to be repealed in the coming weeks.

Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who supports abortion rights, backs a repeal.

“I am glad to see the House follow my calls to repeal the archaic 1864 total abortion ban that could jail doctors and endanger the lives of women in Arizona,” Hobbs said after the vote.

If the repeal fails, the old law, which was passed long before women could vote or Arizona was even a state, will go into effect in June after the state supreme court recently ruled it could stand.

Democrats have pushed for three straight weeks to repeal the so-called zombie law, which was still on the books when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

Republicans are deeply divided on the issue, with many abortion opponents supporting the old law even though the only exception it includes is to save the life of the mother.

Some more pragmatic GOP lawmakers have come out against the law and instead back a previously passed ban that outlaws abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Former President Donald Trump also denounced the law and vowed Arizona would soon “straighten out” the issue after the state supreme court ruling made national headlines.

Even without the 1864 law on the books, Arizona will be a national epicenter for the debate over abortion rights in the fall election.

Abortion rights advocates say they have enough signatures to get a referendum on the fall ballot that would mandate a return to the protections provided by Roe.

Democrats are eager to make abortion an issue nationwide, especially in crucial swing states like Arizona, which will play a key role in deciding the race between Trump and President Biden.

A similar scenario is playing out in Florida where a six-week ban goes into effect next week. A abortion-rights referendum will be on the ballot there in November, but it requires 60% support to pass.