Arizona Senate votes to repeal Civil War-era near-total abortion ban

May 1, 2024, 2:44 PM | Updated: 5:55 pm

Members of Arizona for Abortion Access, the ballot initiative to enshrine abortion rights in the Ar...

Members of Arizona for Abortion Access, the ballot initiative to enshrine abortion rights in the Arizona State Constitution, hold a press conference and protest condemning Arizona House Republicans and the 1864 abortion ban on April 17 in Phoenix. (Rebecca Noble, Getty Images)

(Rebecca Noble, Getty Images)

(CNN) The Arizona Senate on Wednesday voted to repeal the state’s 160-year-old near-total abortion ban, three weeks after the state Supreme Court revived the law and thrust reproductive rights into the political spotlight.

The vote comes a week after three Republicans joined with all 29 Democrats in the state House to repeal the law, which bans abortion at all stages of pregnancy except to save the life of the mother and threatens abortion providers with two to five year prison sentences.

The bill next heads to Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs, who is expected to sign it. It would clear the way for the state’s 15-week limit to remain state law. That restriction, enacted in 2022, does not include exceptions for rape and incest.

Republicans, who hold one-seat majorities in the state House and Senate, have faced increasing pressure to repeal what’s known within the state as both the pre-Roe and the territorial ban, a reference to the law predating Roe v. Wade and Arizona statehood.

Prominent Republicans, including former Gov. Doug Ducey, former President Donald Trump and Senate candidate Kari Lake, have called on the legislature to take action to moderate the ban.

If that law is repealed, the immediate future of abortion access in the state is unclear. The court’s April 9 decision reviving the pre-Roe ban has been stayed and wouldn’t be enforceable until June 27 at the earliest, according to the state’s Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes. The repeal, however, would not go into effect until 90 days after the Arizona legislature adjourns.

On Tuesday, Mayes asked the Arizona Supreme Court to grant her office an additional 90 days to consider whether it wants to appeal the court’s decision to the US Supreme Court.

The Civil War-era ban was first introduced in 1864 and codified in 1901, before Arizona gained statehood in 1912. The law remained in effect until 1973, when it was blocked by a court injunction after the US Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. Months before Roe was overturned in June 2022, the state passed a 15-week limit, which explicitly stated that it would not overrule the pre-Roe ban. On April 9, the state Supreme Court ruled that the ban should be the state law.

For abortion rights advocates, repeal would be the culmination of years of activism. Democrats first introduced legislation to repeal the territorial ban in 2019.

Even if the ban is repealed, Democrats argue the 15-week limit and its lack of exceptions for rape or incest is still unpopular. At the state legislature-level, they plan to target vulnerable House Republicans over their past anti-abortion votes.

Republicans hope that the 15-week limit would be more palatable to voters and help neutralize the strength of reproductive rights as a voting issue.

“There’s still fallout for sure,” said Barrett Marson, an Arizona-based GOP strategist. “But that the territorial ban is no longer the law of the land will absolutely help Republicans.”

In addition to being a presidential and US Senate battleground, Arizona has two toss-up US House races and a handful of competitive state legislature contests that could decide control of the state House and Senate. Democrats have not held both legislative chambers since the 1960s.

Abortion rights advocates are also gathering signatures for a ballot initiative to enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution.

Still, repeal would be a blow to abortion opponents, who have rallied at the state capitol in recent weeks and praised the ban. Several Arizona House members, including House Speaker Ben Toma, spoke out against the repeal last week.

“I am disgusted today,” state Rep. Rachel Jones said last week. “Life is one of the tenants of our Republican platform. To see people go back on that value is egregious to me.”

Contributing: Natasha Chen and Jason Kravarik, CNN 

KSL 5 TV Live

Politics & Elections

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may face internation...

Nadeen Ebrahim, CNN

Hamas and Israeli leaders may face international arrest warrants. Here’s what that means

The International Criminal Court prosecutor is seeking international arrest warrants for top Hamas officials and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on allegations of war crimes.

9 hours ago

Abravanel Hall is pictured in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 8, 2024. Smith Entertainment Group, ...

Lindsay Aerts

Plan for updating Abravanel Hall estimated to cost hundreds of millions

Estimates for updating Abravanel Hall, home of the Utah Symphony, are estimated to cost over $200 million.

10 hours ago

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 20: Former U.S. President Donald Trump with attorney Todd Blanche (L) retu...

Michael R. Sisak, Jennifer Peltz, Jake Offenhartz and Alanna Durkin Richer

Michael Cohen says he stole from Trump’s company as defense presses key hush money trial witness

Former Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen admitted to jurors in the Republican’s hush money trial that he stole tens of thousands of dollars from Trump’s company.

11 hours ago

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hea...

Rashard Rose and Jack Forrest, CNN

Romney says if he were president he would have immediately pardoned Trump

Sen. Mitt Romney said that if he were president he would have “immediately pardoned” former President Donald Trump.

4 days ago

Landscape fabric covers the ground at a legal cannabis farm near Brewster, in north-central Washing...

Lindsay Whitehurst, Associated Press

Justice Department formally moves to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug in historic shift

The Justice Department has formally moved to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug, a historic shift in generations of U.S. drug policy.

4 days ago

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the National Peace Officers M...

Alanna Durkin Richer and Colleen Long

White House blocks release of Biden’s special counsel interview audio, says GOP is being political

The White House has blocked the release of audio from President Joe Biden’s interview with a special counsel about his handling of classified documents.

5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Arizona Senate votes to repeal Civil War-era near-total abortion ban