Arizona lawmakers vote to repeal 19th century abortion ban News
Janni Rye, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Arizona lawmakers vote to repeal 19th century abortion ban

The Arizona State Senate voted 16 to 14 to repeal an abortion ban dating back to 1864, leaving it to Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs to sign the repeal into law, which she has committed to do.

The State Senate’s debate was contentious, with lawmakers delivering theatrical monologues frequently punctuated by cries of protest in the gallery.

The vote follows a ruling by Arizona’s Supreme Court that the 159-year-old law banning abortion was enforceable in the aftermath of the US Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn abortion rights case Roe v Wade, sending a 52-year-old case back to trial court.

The Arizona State House took up and passed the bill to repeal the ban, HB2677, two weeks following the state Supreme Court’s ruling, sending the bill to the State Senate.

Arizona’s abortion ban was enacted shortly after it was designated as a US territory and decades before it attained statehood. The ban was part of the Howell Code, a comprehensive set of laws enacted by the territory’s First Legislative Assembly, encompassing procedural regulations and establishing criminal laws ranging from bigamy to duels to mayhem.

That code stated, in relevant part:

Every person who shall administer or cause to be administered or taken, any medicinal substances, or shall use or cause to be used any instruments whatever, with the intention to procure the miscarriage of any woman then being with child, and shall be thereof duly convicted, shall be punished by imprisonment in the Territorial prison for a term not less than two years nor more than five years.

The 1864 version provided an exception if a physician were to perform an abortion in order to save the mother’s life. The following year, the provision was amended slightly to stipulate that the life-saving exception could apply to anyone performing an abortion. The regulation has remained largely unchanged since 1865, and the near-total abortion ban was codified into Arizona state law in the early 20th century.