Abortion rights activists protest during a rally

Abortion rights activists protest during a rally at the Tucson Federal Courthouse in Tucson, Arizona, on July 4, 2022.

(Photo: Sandy Huffaker/AFP via Getty Images)

'Voters Will Remember': Arizona GOP Thwarts Efforts to Repeal 1864 Abortion Ban

"This is who the Arizona Senate Republicans are—they are so 'pro-life' they will let women die to appeal to their radical base," said Democratic lawmakers."

Republican lawmakers at the federal and state level have displayed considerable hand-wringing this week over the Arizona Supreme Court's reinstatement of a 160-year-old abortion ban, with presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump saying the court had gone "too far."

But when given the opportunity to repeal the law that one state representative said "cannot stand" on Wednesday, the party backpedaled.

In the state Senate, Republicans removed from Wednesday's agenda a bill to repeal the ban and gaveled down state Sen. Anna Hernandez (D-24) as she tried to introduce a motion before the GOP members walked out of the chamber.

"This is who the Arizona Senate Republicans are—they are so 'pro-life' they will let women die to appeal to their radical base," said the state's Senate Democrats. "They broke their own rules and ignored Democratic members who attempted to introduce a measure to repeal the territorial ban on abortion. They walked out on Arizona and turned their back on doing the right thing."

In the state House, state Rep. Matt Gress (R-4), who said Tuesday that he rejected "rolling back the clock to a time when slavery was still legal," made a motion to vote on a Democratic bill to repeal the ban.

But as Mary Jo Pitzl of The Arizona Republicreported, Gress then joined his party in calling for a recess and adjourning until next week, bringing the action to a halt.

Democrats chanted, "Shame!" at the Republicans as they filed out of the chamber.

State Rep. Charles Lucking (D-5) pointed out that Republicans "immediately brought in the press so Gress could say he called a vote."

Democratic members interrupted Gress' press conference, reminding the media that the Republican "sponsored bills to enshrine fetal personhood into law."

"He's lying!" said state Rep. Analise Ortiz (D-24). "Do not fall for it!"

State House Speaker Ben Toma (R-27) toldAxios on Wednesday that he would not support a repeal—but issued a joint statement with state Senate President Warren Petersen (R-14) saying they were reviewing the high court ruling and "listening to our constituents to determine the best course of action."

Pew Research's latest polling data for the state shows 49% of adults in Arizona believe abortion care should be legal in "most or all cases," while 46% believe it should be illegal.

"Banning all abortion in Arizona has always been the endgame for Republicans in the legislature, and today, they showed their cards by refusing to stop this abortion ban in its tracks," said Reproductive Freedom for All director of Arizona campaigns Athena Salman. "These extremists do not care about the health and wellbeing of the people they are supposed to represent."

The 1864 ban applies to pregnancies starting at the moment of conception, with no exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Doctors who provide abortion care could be sentenced to up to five years in prison under the law.

After the Senate Republicans walked out of the session, Democrats posted on social media several of the speeches they had been planning to give in support of repealing the ban.

"We had the chance to fix this today, now, and it is long past time to get rid of this territorial-era ban from before women could vote, from when the age of consent was 10 years old, from before we were even a state," said state Sen. Christine Marsh (D-4). "But as we move forward I will remember the Republicans who stood in the way of attempt after attempt to get rid of this destructive legislation that throws doctors in jail for providing healthcare and endangers women."

"And more importantly," she said, "the voters will remember."

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