Arizona Republicans Thwart Attempts to Repeal 1864 Abortion Ban

A decision by Arizona’s highest court upholding an 1864 ban on nearly all abortions created chaos and confusion across the battleground state on Wednesday. Patients hunted for answers and Democratic lawmakers shouted “Save women’s lives!” as their efforts to repeal the law were frustrated by Republican leaders.

Democrats, who have criticized the decision resurrecting a 160-year-old abortion ban that has no exceptions for rape or incest, quickly tried to push bills through the Republican-controlled state Legislature that would repeal the ban — a move they said would protect women’s health and freedom and also force Republicans to take a formal vote to support the law or strike it down.

But Republican leaders in the Senate removed one bill from the day’s agenda on Wednesday, legislative aides said. In the other chamber, a Republican House member who has done a political about-face and called for striking down the law made a motion to vote on a Democratic repeal bill that has sat stalled for months. But Republican leaders quickly put the House into recess before any vote could be held.

Democrats on the Senate floor jeered as their Republican colleagues filed out of the chamber.

“I don’t see why we wouldn’t move forward,” said State Senator Anna Hernandez, Democrat of Phoenix. “Are they serious about this or are they not?” she said of the Republicans. “Are they just backpedaling when they realize they’re on the losing side of a policy battle?”

Despite the pressure from Democrats and some Republicans to undo the law, it was uncertain whether Republican leaders, who narrowly control both chambers of the legislature, would allow any immediate action on proposals to repeal the ban.

The president of the State Senate and speaker of the State House, both Republicans, issued a joint statement emphasizing that the court’s ruling had not yet taken effect and probably would not for weeks, as the legal fight over the 1864 law heads back to a lower court for additional arguments over its constitutionality. They said they were reviewing the ruling and would listen to their voters to determine what the legislature should do.

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