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Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, here delivering her State of the State address at the state Capitol, has said she would sign the repeal law as soon as it is passed.
Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, here delivering her State of the State address at the state Capitol, has said she would sign the repeal law as soon as it is passed. Ross D. Franklin/AP

Arizona’s Legislature Voted to Repeal Its Abortion Ban, but It May Still Go Into Effect

The state Senate repealed the ban a week after the House did the same. But under state procedure, the repeal may not be effective until months after the ban is in place.

The Arizona state Senate voted to repeal the state’s near-total abortion ban Wednesday, a week after the state House did the same after multiple failed attempts.

But because of procedural rules that delay the start of new legislation, the 1864 law may still temporarily go into effect in June, leading to months of uncertainty around abortion services.

Two Republicans, T.J. Shope of Coolidge and Shawnna Bolick of Phoenix, joined Democrats to repeal the bill, which polls have shown a majority of Arizonans oppose.

Senate President Republican Warren Petersen of Gilbert allowed members to speak for as long as they wanted during the vote. Amid tears and the reading of Bible verses by some lawmakers, Republicans decried the vote and their colleagues who voted with the Democrats. Some also expressed worry about the likely ballot measure in November that would guarantee the right to an abortion in Arizona’s constitution.

“No matter how this vote goes down today, we all need to be concerned about that vote in November. I stand here to say that if America, because it’s not happening just in Arizona, but in other states, if America chooses death, then what right do we have to ask God to bless America?” Sen. Dave Farnsworth, a Republican from Mesa, said.

During her explanation of her vote, Bolick cited messaging from the anti-abortion organization Susan B. Anthony List that “most reasonable people favor limits on abortions” at 15 weeks. Bolick also said that the 15-week law, which the state passed in 2022 but has since been superseded by the 1864 ban, was preferable to the likely ballot measure.

“Very little legislation written and signed into law is ever perfect. Until we have a better choice in the matter, I side with saving more babies’ lives,” she said. “I want to protect our state constitution from unlimited abortions up until the moment of birth.”

State Sen. Anthony Kern of Mesa, an indicted fake elector who is running for Congress to replace Rep. Debbie Lesko, lamented the repeal of “the best abortion ban in the nation.”

“We have two Republicans voting with the Democrats to repeal an abortion ban while saying, ‘I’m pro-life,’” he said. “That’s kind of like Nazi Germany where the Nazis said, ‘Jews, you have something wrong with you, you go to the death chamber. You Jews can live and work the fields.’ It’s wrong.”

Sen. Eva Burch, a Democrat who made news in March by announcing her planned abortion, criticized the “trend” of the legislature codifying religious beliefs.

“I appreciate the passionate religious convictions of members who have risen to announce their faith. I respect it. My beliefs are different from yours. I’m not afraid of the abortions that I had. I do not fear for my soul. They were the right decisions for me, and I don’t have to follow your religion in this country,” she said.

Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes filed a motion with the state Supreme Court on Tuesday to stay its May abortion ruling implementing the pre-state ban for 90 days so she can have time to evaluate whether she will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. If the court grants Mayes’ motion, this would further delay the start of the ban. If the court refuses, the law could go into effect as early as June 27.

Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs has said she will sign the repeal law as soon as she receives it, which may be delayed until the House is next in session. However, the law’s start date will not be until 90 days after the legislature is done, which will be sometime in October.

When the law goes into effect, the state will revert to its 2022 law that prohibits most abortions after 15 weeks.

In early April, the Arizona Supreme Court decided that the territorial abortion law superseded the 2022 law in Planned Parenthood Arizona v. Hazelrigg.

Mayes had said the earliest the pre-Civil War law could go into effect was June 8. However, on Friday, the state Supreme Court would not take up Mayes’ motion to reconsider the case, delaying the start date.

Tara Kavaler is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.