Arizona Legislature Will Consider Repeal of 1864 Abortion Law

Arizona lawmakers seemed poised on Wednesday to repeal an abortion ban that first became law when Abraham Lincoln was president and a half-century before women won the right to vote.

The expected vote in the Arizona State Senate could be the culmination of a fevered effort to repeal the law that has made abortion a central focus of Arizona’s politics.

The issue has galvanized Democratic voters and energized a campaign to put an abortion-rights ballot measure before Arizona voters in November. On the right, it created a rift between anti-abortion activists who want to keep the law in place and Republican politicians who worry about the political backlash that could be prompted by support of a near-total abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest.

The 1864 law had gathered dust on the books for decades, but it exploded into an election-year flashpoint three weeks ago when the Republican-appointed justices of the State Supreme Court said the ban could now be enforced because of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Democrats tried twice to force a repeal bill to a vote in the Republican-controlled state Legislature, only to be blocked by conservative lawmakers. In tense scenes inside the State Capitol, Democratic lawmakers shouted “Shame!” at Republicans, and anti-abortion activists filled the chambers with prayers to uphold the law.

Then last week, three Republican members of the Arizona House joined with every Democrat in the chamber and voted to repeal the 1864 ban, sending it to the Arizona Senate for final approval.

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