Apr 10, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Arizona Republicans block attempt to repeal abortion ban

Illustration of two elephants facing a caduceus between them

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Republican lawmakers blocked a legislative attempt to repeal the state's ban on nearly all abortions, one day after the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that it's the law of the land.

Why it matters: Abortions are likely to become unavailable within two months if the ban isn't repealed. If it is repealed, a 2022 law allowing abortions through 15 weeks of pregnancy would go into effect — though that likely wouldn't be for a few months.

  • "We've got the eyes of the world watching the state of Arizona," state Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (D-Tucson), who sponsored the repeal, said in a floor speech Wednesday.

Driving the news: Rep. Matt Gress (R-Phoenix) on Wednesday morning introduced a motion to force a House vote on Stahl Hamilton's bill. He was the lone House Republican to support the repeal effort.

  • Rep. David Livingston (R-Peoria) then made a motion to adjourn and stall the vote, and that motion passed.
  • Stahl Hamilton tried to move the repeal again during the afternoon, but Republicans again adjourned.

In the state Senate, Republicans blocked a similar attempt by Democrats, though two GOP senators have called for repeal.

The big picture: Democrats' slim minorities mean they need at least two Republicans in each chamber to pass anything.

  • Gress was the only House Republican to vote against adjournment. One other Republican, David Cook of Globe, indicated to Capitol Media Services he'd likely vote for repeal eventually.

Between the lines: "The vote is going to happen and the motion is going to pass," Gress told reporters before the afternoon repeal vote, though he conceded that it might not pass on Wednesday.

The intrigue: House Republicans' adjournment Wednesday morning prompted several Democratic lawmakers on the floor to angrily chant "Shame!" "Shame on you," "Save women's lives" and "Blood on your hands."

  • Some Democrats also harangued Gress, who is in a vulnerable swing district this year. They accused him of previously sponsoring "fetal personhood" legislation, which he has denied.

The other side: House Speaker Ben Toma (R-Glendale), who opposes a repeal, told reporters Wednesday that there's no reason to rush a vote on an emotionally charged issue barely 24 hours after the Supreme Court's ruling.

  • Waiting will give lawmakers "some time to calm down a bit, really process and think through, listen to their constituents, talk to each other."
  • House Republican whip Rep. Teresa Martinez (R-Casa Grande) criticized what she called the Democrats' "lack of decorum and childish behavior."

Between the lines: Toma noted that regardless of when a theoretical repeal passes, it wouldn't go into effect until 90 days after the legislative session ends.

  • There's no set time limit on the session, and the only deadline lawmakers face is passing a budget by June 30.
  • The only way a repeal law could go into effect sooner would be if it garnered two-thirds majorities in each chamber, and Toma said that wouldn't happen.

Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs could call a special session that would allow the law to go into effect sooner, but governors rarely do so unless they know they have enough votes.

What's next: Both chambers are adjourned until next Wednesday.

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