Friday, May 17, 2024

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Arizona Republicans Block Repeal of Archaic 1864 Abortion Law

Democratic efforts to repeal Arizona's Civil War-era abortion ban blocked by Republican opposition.

arizona abortion
Photo: Gage Skidmore

Arizona GOP lawmakers have once again blocked efforts to repeal the draconian 1864 abortion ban that was recently affirmed by the conservative state Supreme Court. Despite mounting pressure from former President Donald Trump and Senate hopeful Kari Lake to nix the law, the GOP-controlled House has sided with the state’s influential anti-abortion lobby, effectively leaving women and healthcare providers in a state of uncertainty and fear.

Last week, the Arizona Supreme Court dealt a crushing blow to women in Arizona when it upheld this 160-year-old ban, which makes abortion a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. 

The current situation in Arizona is a direct result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade nearly two years ago. Since then, this battleground state has become one of the many places where abortion care is effectively banned, sparking an explosion of political activity. 

Arizona Democrats attempt to repeal abortion ban

Democrats have tirelessly worked to repeal the ban, while Republicans scramble to offset the political fallout by discussing a series of contingencies, including pushing alternative ballot measures to compete with a proposed constitutional amendment to expand abortion rights in the state.

During Wednesday’s legislative session, Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill to repeal the Civil War-era ban and filed a motion to Republican House leaders requesting an immediate vote. However, under Arizona House rules, a majority of the chamber, including the House Speaker, must vote to suspend the rules to hold an immediate vote. Republican House Speaker Ben Toma (R-Peoria) has repeatedly expressed his opposition to repealing the ban, effectively blocking any progress on the issue.

The failure to repeal the ban has left many Arizonans outraged, with Democratic lawmakers vowing to not give up. Rep. Lupe Contreras (D-Cashion), the House minority leader, stated, “This is not going away. We’ll bring it back to the floor again.” Meanwhile, Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (D-Tucson), the sponsor of the repeal bill, predicted that if Republicans continue to refuse to allow a vote on repeal, they will pay a price in this year’s elections, potentially leading to Democrats flipping the Legislature.

“The last thing we should be doing today is rushing a bill through the legislative process to repeal a law that has been enacted and affirmed by the legislature several times,” said Republican House Speaker Ben Toma, revealing the party’s deep-seated hostility towards reproductive rights. Toma went on to claim that some lawmakers believe “abortion is in fact the murder of children.” The only Republican to break ranks and support the repeal effort was Rep. Matt Gress (R-Phoenix).

“We will definitely flip the Legislature,” vowed Democratic Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, signaling her confidence that voters will not forget Republicans blocking the repeal effort.

This obstruction by Arizona’s GOP lawmakers comes as no surprise, given the party’s long-standing efforts to restrict abortion access. In fact, the leaked strategy document obtained by NBC News reveals that Republicans have been actively exploring ways to undermine the proposed constitutional amendment that would protect abortion rights in the state.

Most extreme abortion ban in the nation

The consequences of the 1864 law are severe, with doctors and anyone who aids in an abortion facing three to five years in prison. The law bans abortions at any stage of pregnancy, with exceptions only for the life of the mother, leaving no room for cases of rape or incest. That means that children who are victims of rape will now be forced to give birth to their rapist’s child in Arizona. 

The decision to block the repeal serves as a stark reminder of the deepening divide within the Republican Party, with the more socially conservative wing opposing abortion on moral grounds, while the populist, MAGA branch, including Trump and Lake, seek a more politically pragmatic approach. 

However, it is crucial to note that many experts believe that the apparent moderation displayed by figures like Trump and Lake is nothing more than a facade to win votes in the upcoming elections. Once in power, they are likely to revert to supporting draconian bans on abortion, as evidenced by their past actions and affiliations.

As the fight for reproductive rights continues in Arizona, it is crucial for voters to recognize the true intentions of Republican politicians like Donald Trump and Kari Lake. While they may currently present themselves as moderates on the issue of abortion, their past actions and the actions of their colleagues suggest they are likely to support draconian bans once in power.