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Arizona state representatives convene on House floor at the Capitol
Arizona state representatives mingle on the House floor in Phoenix on, April 10. Matt York/AP

Arizona House Republicans Repeatedly Blocked Attempts to Repeal the State’s Near-Total Abortion Ban

It’s the second time since the state court enforced the ban that Republicans have blocked a repeal, despite Donald Trump calling for one.

Republicans in the Arizona state House repeatedly blocked attempts to repeal the state’s near-total abortion ban, bucking calls from the biggest names in their party to kill a law first enacted in 1864.

However, the legislative battle to repeal the pre-state law is far from over.

“We need Republicans with a backbone to vote for the right thing, even if they stand alone against their party. I don’t know if we have any in this chamber,” Democratic state Rep. Consuelo Hernandez of Tucson told NOTUS.

Democrats in the state House are unanimous in their support to repeal the near-total abortion ban but need two Republican votes to get a majority vote of 31. The House adjourned late Wednesday until next week.

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton of Tucson on Wednesday brought a motion to waive normal procedure for a bill that would repeal the pre-state law. The procedural maneuver was required because the bill was never heard in committee, an action that is normally mandated before members can vote on a bill. The motion was denied by state House Speaker Ben Toma, whom Republican Rep. Debbie Lesko has endorsed to fill her congressional seat in a crowded Republican primary for the 8th District.

Democratic Assistant House Minority Leader Oscar De Los Santos of Phoenix then appealed Toma’s ruling unsuccessfully. Democratic Rep. Alma Hernandez of Tucson tried to appeal the first failed appeal, which also failed.

Two Republicans, Rep. Matt Gress of Phoenix and Rep. David Cook of Globe, have said they would support a repeal of the abortion ban. However, Gress was the sole Republican who voted on Wednesday to appeal Toma’s ruling on Stahl Hamilton’s bill.

This is the second time since the Arizona Supreme Court last week allowed the abortion ban to go into effect that Republicans have blocked attempts to repeal it. Gress tried to call a vote last week to repeal the law, which bans nearly all abortions, but was blocked by members of his own party.

Gress is one of a handful of Republicans in the state Legislature with a tough reelection race, and consistent polling indicates an abortion ban is not popular with Arizona voters.

In the last week, high-profile Republicans in the state and elsewhere have rushed to say they oppose the law, from Senate candidate Kari Lake to House members in tough reelection fights. Former President Donald Trump specifically called on the Legislature to repeal the law.

Arizona has two laws on the books regarding abortion, the 1864 law and a newer 2022 law that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks, with an exception for the life of the mother. The 2022 law was followed up until last week’s court decision.

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