The Arizona Republican Party split over the repeal of the 1864 abortion ban

The two chambers of the Arizona Legislature sharply disagreed Wednesday over whether to repeal the state’s 1864 abortion law, ending a chaotic day as lawmakers and activists fought debate over the fate of Civil War-era prohibition.

Just hours after House Republicans scuttled another attempt to repeal the ban, which was upheld by a State Supreme Court ruling last week, some Senate Republicans The state sided with the Democrats and allowed them to introduce a bill to repeal it.

It will take at least a week before the Senate can vote on the bill, but the issue could be a moot point unless House Democrats find a way to get the bill passed there .

House Republican leadership shows no signs of backing down, despite pressure from prominent Republicans, including former President Donald J. Trump, to repeal the ban, which many voters view as is radical and archaic.

“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 reaffirmed multiple times by the Legislature,” House Speaker Ben Toma, a Republican, said as he blocked the voting effort. about abolition.

In an interview after the Senate passed the repeal bill, Mr. Toma refused to bow to any outside pressure to change his mind, even from the highest levels of his party. grandfather. He did not see a clear future for that bill if it reached the House and suggested he would work to prevent it from coming to a vote.

“Ultimately, I don’t see how that’s any different from the current situation,” he said. “I will be consistent. No bill shall be moved in this chamber without the appointment of the Speaker.”

Republicans tightly control both houses of the Arizona Legislature, but foresaw a serious political threat by supporting a measure widely seen as unpopular with voters. Last week’s court ruling upholding the ban angered abortion rights advocates, galvanized abortion opponents and set off a political storm in Arizona.

Repealing the law, which only allows an exception to save the mother’s life and says doctors prosecuted under the law could face fines and prison sentences of two to five years, would put Arizona back on the ban abortion at 15 weeks. The 1864 law had been dormant for decades, but the overturning of Roe v. Wade two years ago set the stage for the State Supreme Court’s decision to restore the law last week.

Republicans initially resisted Democrats’ push to repeal the law last week. But Mr. Trump and Kari Lake, a Senate candidate and close Trump ally, said the court had overreacted and called on the Legislature to act quickly. Ms. Lake, faces a highly competitive race in November, called lawmakers himself and asked how she could help with the repeal effort.

On Wednesday, it appeared their enticement may have paid off to some extent. Democrats signaled they were optimistic there was enough Republican support to secure a majority in the House and send the repeal bill to the Senate.

But when a Democrat introduced a bill to repeal the ban, Republicans successfully blocked a vote on procedural grounds.

“The fact that we won’t even introduce a petition to allow people who have been raped or pregnant by incest to have an abortion is outrageous,” said state representative Alma Hernandez, a Democrat. , extremely disappointing.”

A moment later, the Chairman let the House take a break.

“Today it was a surprise that the House had no votes,” said Cathi Herrod, president of the Arizona Policy Center, a conservative group that opposes abortion.

On Wednesday afternoon, on the other side of the Capitol in the Senate, three Republicans broke with the rest of their party to prevent an adjournment. Two of them – TJ Shope and Shawnna Bolick – voted to authorize the repeal.

In the House, the momentum reflects the broader issue at the heart of the abortion debate. Anti-abortion activists, often conservative Christians, have become a force in many Republican-controlled statehouses, giving them outsized influence over their opponents. support abortion rights, whose views align with a broader range of voters on the issue.

Before the session began Wednesday morning, the House gallery filled early, largely with anti-abortion advocates who arrived early at the direction of activist groups opposing the repeal effort.

At one point, most of the balcony attendees stood and raised their hands toward the House floor below and prayed. They loudly proclaimed: “Deliver us from evil, for yours is the kingdom and the power.”

Ka’rin Royster, a regional committeewoman for the Arizona Republican Party, said she believes life begins at conception. “I am here, before representing the people of my area, to represent Jesus Christ,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be picturesque for people to get pregnant.”

Abortion rights advocates were largely pushed back because the seats in the gallery were full. Rolande Baker, 72, left Tucson at 6:30 a.m. with three abortion rights advocates to ensure she got a seat. She remembers having an abortion at age 19 and having to drive with her boyfriend from Indiana to New York, where the procedure was not yet legal.

After Republicans succeeded in blocking a vote, she was furious.

“Why don’t these cowards allow the vote to go to the floor?” Ms. Baker asked. “What are they afraid of that it might pass? Could that Arizona get us out of 1864? Before the end of the Civil War? Before women had the right to vote?

In the gallery after the vote, Melinda Iyer, 49, of Phoenix, expressed outrage at the use of procedure to block the repeal vote. “The focus on rules and civility when women do not have basic control over their own bodies is an extreme insult to democracy,” she said.

Immediate efforts by Democrats to repeal the ban failure Last week too. A Republican member of the House of Representatives sided with Democrats and introduced a measure to repeal it, but Republican leadership postponed it.

As the second repeal effort took place this week, both parties scrambled to count votes and come up with legislative strategies. Activists and lobbyists have been working behind the scenes to influence or dissuade some Republican lawmakers whose actions could determine the fate of this legislation.

Democrats gained a new House member on Tuesday, when Junelle Cavero was appointed to fill the vacancy left by a Democrat who resigned in April. She arrived just in time to take the abolitionist fight to the floor. Thanks to her vote, Republicans controlled the House of Representatives from 31 to 29.

Miss Lake, in a reversal from her praise of the near-total ban two years ago when she was running for governor, called last week to lawmakers, urging them to return to the 15-week ban in effect in Arizona. Two House members facing competitive re-election bids were quick to criticize the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling, and some Republican lawmakers also signaled they had could side with the Democratic Party to repeal the law.

The opposition by Republicans reflects how politically damaging the abortion issue has become for them, even in traditionally conservative states, in the years since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and ended the constitutional right to abortion.

It also highlighted divisions among Republicans over abortion policy. Anti-abortion groups and conservative organizations have pushed Republicans to keep the law.

“This is being done without any public input. Merissa Hamilton, president of EZAZ, a grassroots conservative group that called on the legislature’s Republican leaders to punish members who voted to quickly pass the repeal, said it was not is an acceptable way of governing. “It was just a political stunt.”

Even if the ban remains in effect, voters will likely have the chance to repeal it this fall. Abortion rights advocates have collected signatures for a ballot measure that would enshrine abortion access until “fetus viability” in the state constitution.

Jack Healy Report contributions.


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