Arizona Republicans Block Effort to Repeal 1864 Near-Total Abortion Ban

2024-04-10 19:06:32

Arizona Republicans stalled an effort on Wednesday to vote on a bill that would repeal a near-total ban on abortion from 1864, which the Arizona Supreme Court ruled this week is “enforceable.”

“Despite many members in their own party calling for an end to the law, GOP leaders in the Legislature, which is controlled by conservatives, said they will be ‘closely reviewing’ the court’s ruling and listening to constituents to determine the best course of action,” ABC News reported.

Arizona Democrats “seized on the decision” and tried to push bills to repeal the ban following the Tuesday ruling, the New York Times reported.

“But Republican leaders in the Senate removed one bill from the day’s agenda on Wednesday, legislative aides said. In the House, a Republican lawmaker who had called for striking down the law made a motion to vote on a Democratic repeal bill that has sat stalled for months,” according to the report. “But Republican leaders quickly scuttled that effort by calling for a recess, and later adjourned until next Wednesday.”

The effort to repeal the ban was kicked off by Republican state Rep. Matt Gress (R-Phoenix), who later “joined other Republicans to temporarily adjourn for recess before they could vote,” according to ABC News.

State Rep. Teresa Martinez (R) criticized her Democrat colleagues for trying to force a vote the day after the ruling, according to the report.

“We do not want to repeal the pre-Roe law without first having a conversation about it,” she said in a floor speech. “There is no reason to rush on this very important topic. We must listen to all viewpoints thoroughly. We cannot do that when our colleagues are acting in the way they did this morning.”

The Senate president and House speaker, both Republicans, issued a joint statement stating that the ruling probably would not take effect for weeks as the legal battle over the law continues in a lower court for more arguments over its constitutionality.

“The Supreme Court has made its decision, and it was one based solely on the text of the law — it was not a policy statement,” Senate President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma said in a statement to ABC News.

“During this time, we will be closely reviewing the court’s ruling, talking to our members, and listening to our constituents to determine the best course of action for the legislature,” the state Senate president and House speaker said.

Some prominent Arizona Republicans have notably distanced themselves from the Arizona Supreme Court’s rulings, including Senate candidate Kari Lake and former Gov. Doug Ducey. The decision was also released after former President Donald Trump revealed his stance that state should ultimately decide on the issue of abortion. Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he thinks the 1864 law goes too far.

“It’s all about state’s rights, and that’ll be straightened out,” Trump said. “I’m sure that the governor and everybody else are going to bring it back into reason and that’ll be taken care of, I think very quickly.”

Trump noted in his abortion position announcement that while the issue is often a deep moral choice for many voters one way or another, Republicans must “also win elections to restore the culture.” Democrats, as well as President Joe Biden’s campaign, have been heavily banking on driving voter turnout around the topic of abortion, using the issue to paint Republicans as “extreme” and a threat to women.

The Arizona Supreme Court ruling has drawn the ire of Democrats, including Biden, who blamed the decision on the “extreme agenda” of Republicans. Vice President Kamala Harris is also set to travel to Arizona on Friday to promote “reproductive health” in the state.

“Arizona is considered a swing state in the upcoming presidential election. In 2020, Harris and President Joe Biden beat Trump in the state by less than half a percentage point,” The Arizona Republic reported. “The White House has ramped up its presence in Arizona accordingly. The president, vice president, both of their spouses and several other campaign surrogates have visited Arizona since the beginning of March.”

RELATED: Decoding Democrat Joe Biden’s 2024 Abortion Playbook

The 1864 law bars all abortions except to save the life of the mother and also carries a sentence of two to five years for abortionists. Justices heard arguments in the case, Planned Parenthood of Arizona v. Mayes/Hazerigg, in December, and were asked to answer whether Arizona’s 15-week abortion limit passed in March of 2022 overrides the older law.

While the court did not rule on the constitutionality of the 1864 law, the court issued a 4-2 decision with one recusal on Tuesday, finding that the 1864 law is “enforceable” over the newer 15-week limit.

“We consider whether the Arizona Legislature repealed or otherwise restricted [the old law] by enacting … the statute proscribing physicians from performing elective abortions after fifteen weeks’ gestation,” Justice John Lopez wrote for the majority opinion. “This case involves statutory interpretation—it does not rest on the justices’ morals or public policy views regarding abortion; nor does it rest on [the old law’s] constitutionality, which is not before us.”

“Absent the federal constitutional abortion right, and because [the fifteen-week limit] does not independently authorize abortion, there is no provision in federal or state law prohibiting [the 1864 law’s] operation. Accordingly, [the 1864 law] is now enforceable,” Lopez continued.

The Arizona Supreme Court ultimately affirmed a lower court’s decision vacating an injunction against the near-total ban but stayed the total enforcement of the law for 14 days to allow for parties to decide how to pursue further action. The state’s high court also remanded the case to trial court for potential consideration of remaining constitutional challenges.

RELATED: Donald Trump Reveals Abortion Position, Says States Should Decide

The state supreme court decision comes as pro-abortion activists are moving forward with a proposed amendment that would create a constitutional right to abortion in Arizona.

Arizona for Abortion Access — a coalition of groups including ACLU of Arizona, Affirm Sexual and Reproductive Health, Arizona List, Healthcare Rising Arizona, NARAL Arizona, and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona — said last week that they had amassed more than 500,000 signatures, well past the 383,923 required for the proposed amendment to qualify for the ballot in November. If the abortion measure makes it on the November ballot, it would need a simple majority to pass.

Arizona is one of nearly a dozen states where pro-abortion activists are working to codify the right to kill the unborn.

Katherine Hamilton is a political reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow her on X @thekat_hamilton.

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Arizona Republicans Block Effort to Repeal 1864 Near-Total Abortion Ban


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