Updated Apr 17, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Arizona House again blocks repeal of 1864 abortion ban; Senate leaves door open

abortion protestors in AZ

Arizona residents rally for abortion rights on Tuesday in Phoenix. Photo: Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Arizona Senate took a concrete step toward repealing the state's pre-Roe abortion ban on Wednesday, but House Republicans continued to block similar efforts, leaving the fate of the 1864 law in question.

The big picture: The razor-thin margins — 30-30 in the House and 16-14 in the Senate — illustrate the tensions that have resurfaced over the issue since the Arizona Supreme Court reinstated the pre-Roe ban last week.

  • In total, three Republicans in competitive districts joined Democrats to support repeal.
  • Attention now turns back to the House, where the Republican speaker has vowed to continue to stymie the effort.

Driving the news: The soonest the Senate could take a final vote on the bill is in two weeks due to legislative procedures, the Senate Republicans' communications director, Kim Quintero, told reporters Wednesday.

  • It would also take the House at least another two weeks to give the bill final approval because both chambers are meeting only once a week. They reconvene next Wednesday.

Yes, but: House Speaker Ben Toma tells Axios he'll continue to block his chamber from voting on the bill if the Senate passes it, just as he and most Republicans have now done twice.

  • "Quite frankly, I don't know how it's different," he says.
  • The only way to force a vote would be to override the speaker, which most Republicans have been hesitant to do.

Reality check: Even if it were to pass, without supermajorities the repeal wouldn't go into effect until 90 days after the session ends — which has no fixed date. Last year's session, the longest in state history, lasted through July.

  • The earliest the 1864 ban could take effect is June 8, Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes confirmed Wednesday on X.
  • Therefore, the ban could still be in effect for an unknown period of time.

The intrigue: Rep. Matt Gress (R-Phoenix), the only House Republican to publicly support repeal, said he believes others will join him if it goes up for a vote. Only one more House Republican is needed.

  • But it's unclear whether other Republicans will go as far as overriding Toma, even if they support repeal.

Zoom in: Rep. Tim Dunn (R-Yuma), one of two other House Republicans who were heavily pressured Wednesday to support repeal, tells Axios he thinks the ban should be nixed.

  • But he wouldn't say whether he was willing to override Toma. He says he is committed to "continued conversations" with his caucus this week.

Between the lines: Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs and Mayes have pledged that the ban won't be enforced, but providers are unlikely to provide illegal abortions regardless.

  • Mayes said Wednesday she would "fight like hell to prevent this law from taking effect."
  • She also said she'd discussed with the California attorney general the possibility of obtaining emergency licenses for Arizona providers.

What's next: A citizen initiative to enshrine abortion rights in the state Constitution is expected to be on the November ballot.

  • The Arizona Abortion Access Act would expand abortion access to the point of fetal viability — generally around 24 weeks — with exceptions for life and health of the mother.
  • House Republicans are also contemplating several new competing ballot measures.
  • Rep. Alex Kolodin (R-Scottsdale) said on the House floor Wednesday that Republicans would soon introduce their own plan to offer voters choices.

Editor's note: This developing story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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