Arizona Democrats to make final push to repeal near-total abortion ban


Democrats in the Arizona legislature are expected to make a final push on Wednesday to repeal the state’s near-total ban on abortions.

Fourteen Democrats in the state senate are hoping to pick up at least two Republican votes to win final approval for a bill repealing the ban, which narrowly cleared the Arizona house last week and is expected to be signed by the Democratic governor.

Related: Florida’s six-week abortion ban takes effect, ending access in south-east US

The near-total ban, which predates Arizona’s statehood, permits abortions only to save the patient’s life – and provides no exceptions for survivors of rape or incest. The law had been on the books since 1864, but had been blocked since the US supreme court’s 1973 Roe v Wade decision guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion nationwide.

In a ruling last month, however, the Arizona supreme court suggested that following the US supreme court’s decision last year to overturn Roe v Wade, doctors could be prosecuted under the civil war-era law. Under the law, anyone who assists in an abortion can be sentenced to two to five years in prison.

If the repeal bill is signed, a 2022 statute banning the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy would become Arizona’s prevailing abortion law. Still, there would probably be a period when nearly all abortions would be outlawed, because the repeal will not take effect until 90 days after the end of the legislative session, probably in June or July.

Arizona’s attorney general, Kris Mayes, a Democrat, has said that the earliest the state can enforce the ban is 27 June. She has asked the state’s highest court to block enforcement for a three-month period, ending sometime in late July. And she has vowed to not enforce the law.

The anti-abortion group defending the ban, Alliance Defending Freedom, maintains that county prosecutors can begin enforcing it once the state supreme court’s decision becomes final, which has not yet occurred.

Planned Parenthood officials vowed to continue providing abortions for the short time they are still legal and said they would reinforce networks that help patients travel out of state to places like New Mexico and California to access abortion.

The abortion ruling has put enormous pressure on Republicans in Arizona, one of a handful of battleground states that will decide the next president. Republicans have found themselves under fire from conservatives in their base who firmly support the abortion ban, and from swing voters who strongly oppose the measure .

Donald Trump, who has warned that the issue could lead to Republican losses, has avoided endorsing a national abortion ban but has said he is proud to have appointed the supreme court justices who allowed states to outlaw it.

Whether Democrats’ succeed in repealing the ban or not, abortion will be a key topic in Arizona’s elections in November. Pro-choice advocates are collecting signatures for a ballot measure that would allow abortions until a fetus could survive outside the womb, typically around 24 weeks, with exceptions – to save the parent’s life, or to protect her physical or mental health.

Republican lawmakers, in turn, are considering putting one or more competing abortion proposals on the November ballot.

A leaked planning document outlined the approaches being considered by House Republicans, such as codifying existing abortion regulations, proposing a 14-week ban that would be “disguised as a 15-week law” because it would allow abortions until the beginning of the 15th week, and a measure that would prohibit abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, before many people know they are pregnant.

House Republicans have not yet publicly released any such proposed ballot measures.



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