Arizona Republicans Splinter Over Repeal of 1864 Abortion Ban


Arizona Republicans Splinter Over Repeal of 1864 Abortion Ban

Arizona Republicans Splinter Over Repeal of 1864 Abortion Ban

The two chambers of Arizona’s State Legislature diverged sharply on Wednesday over whether to repeal the state’s 1864 law banning abortion, capping a chaotic day as legislators and activists sparred over the fate of the Civil War-era ban.

Quick Facts

  • Arizona’s State Legislature is divided on the repeal of the 1864 law banning abortion.
  • Republicans in the State House scuttled an effort to repeal the ban, while a handful of Republicans in the State Senate sided with Democrats to introduce a bill to repeal it.
  • The House Republican leadership shows no signs of relenting, despite pressure from prominent Republicans, including former President Donald J. Trump, to toss the ban.

Only hours after Republicans in the State House scuttled another effort to repeal the ban, which was upheld by a State Supreme Court ruling last week, a handful of Republicans in the State Senate sided with Democrats and allowed them to introduce a bill to repeal it.

It will be at least a week before the Senate can vote on the bill, but the matter could be a moot point unless Democrats in the House find a way to get a bill passed there.

The House Republican leadership shows no signs of relenting, despite pressure from prominent Republicans, including former President Donald J. Trump, to toss the ban that many voters viewed as extreme and archaic.

In an interview after the Senate advanced the repeal bill, Mr. Toma refused to bow to any outside pressure to change his mind, even from the highest ranks of his own party. He did not see a clear future for that bill, should it arrive in the House, and suggested he would work to prevent it from coming forward for a vote.

Republicans narrowly control both houses of the Arizona Legislature, but foresaw a grave political threat in backing a measure widely seen as out of touch with voters. The court ruling last week that upheld the ban infuriated supporters of abortion rights, exhilarated abortion opponents and set off a political firestorm in Arizona.

Repealing the law, which allows only an exception to save the life of the mother, and says doctors prosecuted under the law could face fines and prison terms of two to five years, would revert Arizona to a 15-week abortion ban. The 1864 law had sat dormant for decades, but the overturning of Roe v. Wade two years ago set the stage for the State Supreme Court’s decision to reinstate it last week.

Republicans initially resisted Democrats’ attempts to repeal the law last week. But Mr. Trump and Kari Lake, the Senate candidate and close Trump ally, said the court had overreached and urged the Legislature to act quickly. Ms. Lake, facing a highly competitive race in November, dialed lawmakers herself and asked how she could help with the repeal effort.

On Wednesday, it appeared as though their cajoling might have paid off, to a degree. Democrats signaled that they were optimistic of having enough Republican support to secure a majority in the House and send the repeal bill to the Senate.

But when one Democrat rose to bring forward her bill to repeal the ban, Republicans successfully prevented a vote on procedural grounds.

“The fact that we will not even entertain a motion to allow those who have been raped or pregnant by incest to be able to have an abortion is extremely, extremely disappointing,” State Representative Alma Hernandez, a Democrat, said.

Moments later, the chairman gaveled the House into recess.

“Today was a nice surprise that the House did not have the votes,” said Cathi Herrod, the president of the Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative group that opposes abortion.

On Wednesday afternoon, on the other side of the Capitol in the Senate, three Republicans broke with the rest of their party to stop the chamber from adjourning. Two of them — T.J. Shope and Shawnna Bolick — voted to allow the repeal to be introduced.

In the House, the dynamic reflected the broader one at the heart of the abortion debate. Anti-abortion activists, often conservative Christians, have become a force in many Republican-controlled statehouses, giving them outsize influence compared to abortion rights supporters, whose views align with more voters on the issue.

Before the session began on Wednesday morning, the House gallery filled early, largely with anti-abortion supporters who came early at the direction of activist groups to oppose the repeal effort.

At one point, most of the attendees in the balcony stood and extended their hands toward the House floor below, and prayed. “Deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power,” they declared loudly.

Ka’rin Royster, an Arizona Republican Party precinct committeeman, said she believed life begins at conception. “I’m here, before representing the people in my precinct, to represent Jesus Christ,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be picture-perfect for people to get pregnant.”

Supporters of abortion rights were largely relegated to the overflow, as seats in the gallery were already taken. Rolande Baker, 72, left Tucson at 6:30 a.m. with three fellow abortion rights supporters to make sure she got a seat. She remembered having an abortion when she was 19, and had to drive with her boyfriend to New York from Indiana, where the procedure was not yet legal.

After Republicans succeeded in blocking a vote, she was furious.

“Why won’t these cowards allow the vote to come to the floor?” Ms. Baker asked. “What are they afraid of, that it might just pass? That Arizona just might get ourselves out of the year 1864? Before the end of the Civil War? Before women had a right to vote?”

In the gallery after the vote, Melinda Iyer, 49, of Phoenix, was outraged at the use of procedure to prevent the repeal vote. “This focus on rules and decorum when women do not have basic control over their own bodies is an extreme affront to democracy,” she said.

Democrats’ immediate attempts to repeal the ban failed last week as well. A Republican member of the House had sided with Democrats and put forward a measure to repeal it, but G.O.P. leadership adjourned.

As a second attempt at a repeal loomed this week, both parties scrambled to count votes and game out legislative strategies. Activists and lobbyists jockeyed behind the scenes to sway or hold the handful of Republican lawmakers whose actions could determine the law’s fate.

Democrats gained a new House member on Tuesday, when Junelle Cavero was appointed to fill a vacancy for a Democrat who resigned in April. She arrived in time for the repeal fight on the floor. Accounting for her vote, Republicans controlled the House 31 to 29.

Ms. Lake, in a reversal from her praise of the near-total ban two years ago when she was running for governor, made calls last week to lawmakers, urging them to revert to the 15-week ban that was in effect in Arizona. Two House members facing competitive re-election efforts were quick to criticize the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling, and several Republican legislators also signaled they might side with Democrats to repeal the law.

The about-face from Republicans reflected just how politically damaging the issue of abortion has become for them in the years since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and ended a constitutional right to abortion, even in traditionally conservative states.

It has also highlighted divisions among Republicans on abortion policy. Anti-abortion groups and conservative organizations pushed Republicans to keep the law in place.

“This is being shoved through without any public input. It’s not an acceptable way to govern,” said Merissa Hamilton, president of EZAZ, a grass-roots conservative group that urged the legislature’s Republican leaders to punish members who vote to quickly pass the repeal. “It’s just a political stunt.”

Even if the ban remains on the books, voters will likely have their own chance to repeal it this fall. Abortion rights advocates have been gathering signatures for a ballot measure that would enshrine abortion access up until “fetal viability” in the state’s constitution.

The post Arizona Republicans Splinter Over Repeal of 1864 Abortion Ban appeared first on New York Times.

via DNyuz

April 17, 2024 at 06:19PM


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