Arizona Overturns 1864 Abortion Ban

( – In a historic move, the Arizona House of Representatives has taken a significant step toward reversing the state’s longstanding abortion ban, which dates back to its territorial days over 160 years ago. This legislative decision paves the way for maintaining Arizona’s current 15-week abortion restriction, rather than reverting to the far stricter Civil War-era law.

The decision to vote on the matter arose after previous unsuccessful efforts last week to get the bill on the floor. This legislative push is occurring amidst a turbulent political climate where GOP candidates in Arizona are attempting to navigate the repercussions of a state Supreme Court decision earlier this month. The ruling mandated adherence to the stringent 1864 statute that prohibits almost all abortions except in instances deemed “necessary” to save a woman’s life, a directive that also imposes a potential two to five-year prison sentence on providers who perform the procedure.

Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs is anticipated to sign the repeal should it pass the Senate and reach her desk. The outcome of this legislation is critical; failure to repeal could activate the 1864 law as soon as June 8, positioning Arizona among the handful of states imposing severe abortion bans, with few exceptions, across nearly all stages of pregnancy.

The push to dismantle the archaic ban gains added context from actions taken prior to the recent upheaval in abortion law. In March 2022, months before the landmark Roe v. Wade decision was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, then-Republican Governor Doug Ducey enacted a 15-week abortion limit. Notably, this measure included no exceptions for cases of rape or incest and explicitly stated that it did not supersede the 1864 statute.

The 1864 law, a relic from Arizona’s days as a territory, was codified in 1901 and remained active until it was halted by a court injunction following the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, which established a federal constitutional right to an abortion.

Amid these legislative battles, abortion rights advocates are mobilizing to secure a constitutional amendment that would safeguard abortion access up to the point of fetal viability, estimated to be about 22 to 24 weeks into pregnancy. The group Arizona for Abortion Access has been spearheading this initiative, having already collected over 500,000 signatures. To qualify for the November ballot, advocates must submit at least 384,000 valid signatures by July 3.

In a preemptive move that underscores the deep divisions on this issue, the Arizona House’s rules committee, voting along party lines, recently approved the late introduction of three House resolutions. These measures, widely believed to be Republican-endorsed, appear designed to counter the proposed abortion rights amendment.

As Arizona stands at a crossroads, the outcome of this legislative effort will significantly influence the state’s legal landscape concerning abortion rights and could reverberate beyond its borders, reflecting the ongoing national debate over reproductive rights.