Arizona Republicans block quick push to repeal near-total abortion ban, which hasn’t taken effect yet

Written by on April 11, 2024

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(WASHINGTON) — Arizona Republicans on Wednesday blocked efforts to move forward on a bill to repeal a near-total abortion ban in the state that dates to 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.

“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.

Petersen and Toma noted that the court’s ruling this week has not yet taken effect and is expected to not kick in for several weeks, at least.

“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.

The court ruling on Tuesday drew support from abortion opponents and denunciation from advocates for reproductive rights, including President Joe Biden, who labeled it “cruel” and blamed it on the “result of the extreme agenda of Republican elected officials who are committed to ripping away women’s freedom.”

The president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, Marjorie Dannenfelser, who opposes abortion, called the court decision an “enormous victory for unborn children and their mothers.”

“Reinstating Arizona’s pro-life law will protect more than 11,000 babies annually … The compassion of the pro-life movement won in court today,” she said.

But notable Arizona Republicans, including Senate candidate Kari Lake and former Gov. Doug Ducey, both of whom supported less strict abortion bans, distanced themselves from the court’s decision.

Democrats and Republicans alike in the Legislature have been calling to repeal the ban, which predates Arizona’s statehood and includes only an exception to save the life of the pregnant woman.

Amid the bipartisan outcry, drama was stirred in the Arizona House on Wednesday as Democrats tried to bring forward a bill to repeal the law.

Republicans got ahead of them, with Rep. Matt Gress moving to bring the legislation to the floor. But then he quickly joined other Republicans to temporarily adjourn for recess before they could vote.

There were then chants of “shame, shame, shame” from Arizona Democrats, per members in the room.

The state House later narrowly voted, 30-29, to adjourn for the next week.

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton — who introduced the proposal in the House to repeal the ban — made a passionate speech to her colleagues amid the voting on the second motion to adjourn.

“We’re in a real moment right now. We’ve got the eyes of the world watching the state of Arizona. And that’s not hyperbole,” she said.

“This is probably one of the most important decisions we will make this legislative session. And when people’s lives are at stake, we don’t have time to waste. So today we need to stay in this chamber,” she said.

Republican Rep. Teresa Martinez then took to the floor to advocate for the body to adjourn so that they might not “rush on this very important topic.”

She also decried the actions of her Democratic colleagues earlier in the day, when they chanted “shame” at Republicans on the floor.

“I cannot believe the lack of decorum and childish behavior displayed,” she said.

Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, slammed state Republicans, saying they “had the chance to do the right thing for their constituents, and they failed.”

“I will do everything in my power to protect reproductive freedoms for Arizona women. … My heart is with every single woman who is now questioning if it is safe for them to start a family. I am proud to be a voice for every Arizonan who believes in freedom and bodily autonomy,” Hobbs said in a statement to ABC News.

“This fight is far from over,” she said.

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