Arizona Senate Votes to Repeal State Abortion Ban From 1864

(Bloomberg) -- The Arizona Senate voted 16-14 to repeal an 1864 law that would make nearly all abortions a crime, preserving access to the procedure after the state’s Supreme court revived the Civil War-era law in early April.

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Wednesday’s vote followed weeks of pressure for the Republican-led legislature to ditch the law before it takes effect and upends access to abortion, which has become a divisive issue in the 2024 presidential election campaign. The state House has already approved the repeal bill, and Governor Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, pledged to sign it into law.

“We are going to get rid of this awful law once and for all,” Hobbs said in a social media post after the vote. She didn’t indicate when she’ll sign the repeal bill.

Once the law is officially repealed, women in Arizona will be able to have abortions until 15 weeks of pregnancy, as was the case prior to the court ruling.

While the 1864 law was enacted before Arizona became a state, it had been blocked since the US Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973 and established federal protections for abortion. Once that decision was overturned in 2022, an Arizona judge lifted an order blocking enforcement of the ban and the state Supreme Court reinstated the ban in early April.

The repeal bill is expected to take effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns its current session, which depends on how long it takes lawmakers to iron out the state budget.

This delay could mean that the criminalization law will temporarily take effect, until the new state measure wipes it from the books. The Arizona Supreme Court said the law could take effect in a few weeks, but that’s been delayed.

The politically charged issue divided Republicans lawmakers in Arizona. The repeal bill passed over the objections of the GOP majority and leadership in both chambers: Three of the state’s 31 House Republicans and two of its 16 Republican senators ultimately voted in favor of the legislation.

In the latest Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll, independents in Arizona said that on abortion, they trust President Joe Biden by 12 percentage points over his Republican rival Donald Trump.

More broadly, half of swing-state voters said abortion was very important to their vote. Plus, shares of Democrats and independents who characterized the issue that way has increased since March, while the proportion of Republican voters saying that has held steady, a sign the issue is a growing priority for the voters more likely to align with Biden’s views on it.

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, a Democrat, said the earliest the law can go into effect under the court’s decision is June 8, “absent any additional litigation or action by the legislature.” On Tuesday, Mayes asked the state Supreme Court to delay its order for 90 days so she can evaluate whether to take the case to the US Supreme Court.

Following the vote, Planned Parenthood Arizona asked the court to issue an order blocking its earlier opinion in order to bar the 1864 measure from taking effect at all.

(Updates with comment from governor, Planned Parenthood Arizona.)

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