© 2024 Allbritton Journalism Institute
Arizona state representatives convene on House floor at the Capitol
Arizona also has a 2022 law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with an exception for the life of the mother. Matt York/AP

Arizona Takes a Crucial Step Toward Repealing Its 1864 Abortion Ban

After two failed attempts, three state Republican representatives voted with Democrats in favor of repealing the 160-year-old law.

Arizona’s Republican-majority state Legislature voted Wednesday to repeal the almost-complete ban on abortions that’s been on the books since 1864.

Three Republicans joined the chamber’s Democrats to scrap the Civil War-era law, which bans abortions from the point of conception, with exceptions for the life of the mother. It was the state House’s third attempt at undoing the law, which the state Supreme Court ruled was enforceable in early April.

The bill now goes to the state’s Republican-majority Senate. If it passes, the earliest it can be sent to the governor’s desk is next week. Arizona also has a 2022 law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with an exception for the life of the mother.

Arizona’s Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs hailed the repeal vote’s passage in the state House and called on the state Senate to send the repeal to her desk.

“Make no mistake about it, radical legislators got what they wanted with the 1864 total abortion ban. I have had to veto legislation attacking women’s rights and threatening access to IVF, and this legislature still refuses to take action to guarantee access to contraceptives,” Hobbs said in a statement.

Arizona is likely to have a ballot initiative in November that enshrines the right to an abortion in the state constitution. Unlike the U.S. Constitution, Arizona’s has an explicitly stated right to privacy.

Arizona Republicans rushed to condemn the state Supreme Court’s ruling allowing the 160-year-old law to take effect, including Senate GOP candidate Kari Lake and vulnerable House Reps. Juan Ciscomani and David Schweikert.

Republicans in swing districts faced political pressure to vote for the repeal, as Arizonans opposed a total ban in polls. After previously being the sole Republican to vote for its repeal, on the third attempt, state Rep. Matt Gress was joined by Reps. Tim Dunn of Yuma and Justin Wilmeth of Phoenix.

“As someone who is both Pro-Life and the product of strong women in my life, I refuse to buy into the false notion pushed by the extremes on both sides of the issue that we cannot respect and protect women and defend new life at the same time,” Gress said in a written statement.

Opponents of repeal, like Republican state Rep. Alexander Kolodin of Scottsdale called out the political motivations behind the vote.

“We’re willing to kill infants in order to win an election,” he said.

Abortion remains a central campaign issue in the 2024 cycle, particularly in Arizona, where Lake and Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego are competing in a high-stakes race for Kyrsten Sinema’s Senate seat.

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