KIX 92.1Oldies 98.397.9 The BeatQ-102Delta Country 105.7Star 101KIX 92.7WNIXWNLA AM 1380

Ignoring Trump, Arizona Republicans dont want to move too fast to repeal 1864 abortion ban

SHARE NOW

(PHOENIX) — Arizona’s Republican lawmakers made clear on Wednesday, despite the controversy engulfing their state with the revival of a strict, Civil War-era abortion ban — roiling the politics of the key battleground and drawing criticism from top conservatives like Donald Trump — that it’s not the time to move too quickly.

“Legislatures are not built for knee-jerk reactions,” state House Speaker Ben Toma said during a floor session as the GOP majority, with one exception, blocked a Democratic-led effort to fast-track a bill to repeal the 1864 abortion ban that the Arizona Supreme Court recently ruled is enforceable.

“The last thing we should be doing today is rushing a bill through the legislative process to repeal a law that has been enacted and reaffirmed by the Legislature several times,” Toma said.

The 1864 ban, which supersedes a 15-week abortion ban that was enacted in 2022 after a state Supreme Court ruling last week, blocks all abortions except to save the life of the pregnant woman.

Anyone found guilty of violating it will face two to five years in state prison, but Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, a Democrat, said she would not prosecute providers under the law.

Though the ban remains temporarily on hold, Mayes said this week that the earliest it could take effect is June 8, “absent any additional litigation” or legislative action.

While the ban was celebrated by abortion opponents like Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser — who called the state Supreme Court decision an “enormous victory for unborn children and their mothers” — it was denounced by abortion access advocates and Democrats.

On Wednesday, as lawmakers reconvened and Democrats sought to move forward on their repeal proposal, advocates on both sides of the issue gathered inside and outside of the state Capitol.

“This is a stain on history that this ban even exists — from a time when the age of consent was 10, from a time when women didn’t have the right to vote,” Arizona state Sen. Eva Burch, a Democrat, told ABC News’ Elizabeth Schulze.

Burch’s GOP colleague Dave Farnsworth took another view.

“We have the best law possible on the books right now,” the state senator told Schulze.

Pressed about the ban’s lack of exceptions, Farnsworth said, “Arizona’s a pro-life state and that law was put into place by people that believe in the sanctity of life.”

Toma, the House speaker, said during Wednesday’s floor session that “abortion is a complicated topic — it is ethically, morally complex. I understand that we have deeply held beliefs, and I would ask everyone in this chamber to respect the fact that some of us who believe that abortion is in fact the murder of children.”

That position cuts against some of the most prominent voices in the GOP, who have staked out a more careful position in an election year in which abortion is expected to be a major issue for voters — and as abortion access has won out in races elsewhere in the country.

Leading Republicans like Trump, former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Senate candidate Kari Lake touted their general support for abortion restrictions but said the 1864 ban goes too far.

“It’s all about states’ rights and it needs to be straightened out,” Trump said last week during a campaign stop in Atlanta. “And I’m sure that the governor and everybody else will bring it back into reason and that will be taken care of.”

The state’s Democratic governor, Katie Hobbs, has called on state lawmakers to repeal the ban — but shot back at Trump.

“I’m kind of tired of cleaning up Donald Trump’s messes,” Hobbs said on “GMA3” last week. “But, look, this is just political opportunism from these politicians who this is they are getting exactly what they wanted. Donald Trump bragged about getting rid of Roe v. Wade. And this is the consequence of that.”

Since Roe was overruled in 2022 by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority, including three justices named by Trump, as he often notes, 21 states have banned or severely restricted abortion access.

However, since 2022, voters across the country have also repeatedly cast ballots protecting abortion rights, and exit polling showed that it was top of mind for some voters, as in Michigan’s midterm races.

The Arizona for Abortion Access campaign is working to get a potential constitutional amendment on the state’s ballot in November to enshrine abortion access, which Democrats believe could boost voter enthusiasm and turnout for their candidates. The campaign has said that they have gathered more than 500,000 signatures — surpassing the necessary threshold, but will continue to gather signatures “until the wheels fall off,” a spokesperson told ABC News.

The inititiave would amend Arizona’s Constitution to prohibit the state from legislating against abortion up until fetal viability, which is around 24 weeks into pregnancy; and it enshrines other abortion protections into law.

The Republican-led House counsel in Arizona has, separately, internally proposed a plan to rival the state’s abortion rights ballot initiative by adding ballot initiatives of their own in the wake of what they call “court chaos” on abortion policy, according to a presentation leaked Monday and shared with ABC News. Those plans could be publicly announced as soon as this week, a Republican lawmaker said Wednesday.

Democratic lawmakers also plan to keep pushing repeal.

State senators on Wednesday began the process of taking up another bill to undo the 1864 ban, though the earliest that proposal would likely see a vote is on May 1, as it requires two other readings before a vote can be taken and the Legislature is on a once-a-week meeting schedule.

Arizona voter Desiree Mayes, a Republican at the Capitol on Wednesday to help apply pressure on lawmakers not to repeal the ban, called Trump’s stance on abortion “inconsistent.”

“If you really if you really believe that babies in the womb are precious and valuable, they deserve equal protection,” she said, explaining she doesn’t support exceptions for rape or incest.

Her message to Arizona Republicans like Lake and others distancing themselves from the 1864 ban? “You’re saying you’re pro-life. If you work to repeal this ban, we’re going to make sure all your constituents know.”

Republican strategist Barrett Marson said the failure of a quick repeal showed that Trump and Lake “only have so much sway over far-right politicians,” noting that not one vote changed since they weighed in.

House Democrats will try again, next week, for another vote on their bill.

Arizona state Rep. David Cook, a Republican who voted against fast-tracking the repeal legislation on Wednesday, told ABC News’ Phil Lipof in an interview on “ABC News Live Prime” that conservatives do intend to get behind repeal in the future. He felt the rules weren’t followed Wednesday and he refused to “roll the speaker,” or neutralize the speaker’s objections to move to a final vote.

“We made tremendous progress … in moving forward,” Cook said of internal deliberations in the GOP state House caucus.

“The bottom is that the 1800 law will be repealed,” he said, with a successful vote likely as soon as next week.

Republican state Rep. Matt Gress, who backed repeal on Wednesday, agreed. “There are enough votes in this chamber to repeal the territorial law. It will happen, it’s just a matter of time,” he said on the floor.

But after that, Cook told Lipof, more exceptions need to be enacted in the state’s abortion restrictions, including for rape and incest.

He defended the timeline so far, telling Lipof, “We don’t need knee-jerk reactions to bypass the rules and the normal order of business. This is not an emergency.”

State Rep. Alexander Kolodin, another Republican, said during Wednesday’s floor session that Republicans will roll out their own abortion plan, indicating that action may be through a ballot initiative.

“The ultimate folks who are going to make the call will be the people of the state of Arizona,” he said.

Speaking with ABC News’ Elizabeth Schulze, Kolodin suggested he’s not worried that the politics of abortion will imperil his party at the ballot box.

“Voters are smart,” he said. “They would rather vote for somebody that they respect and disagree with than somebody that doesn’t believe in anything.”

Meanwhile, for the women of Arizona seeking abortions, the clock is ticking, providers say.

“We are having conversations with them, letting them know that we’re going week by week,” Dr. DeShawn Taylor told Schulze. “Because there will come a time when we’ll have to stop.”

ABC News’ Isabella Murray contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.