Gloria Rebecca Gomez

(Arizona Mirror) For the second time in as many weeks, Arizona Republicans refused to strike down a near-total abortion ban from 1864, using a procedural move to block a Democratic effort to repeal the law.

On April 9, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that a near-total ban from 1864, which includes no exceptions for rape or incest and punishes doctors who perform abortions for any reason other than saving a woman’s life with mandatory prison time, supersedes a 15-week gestational ban passed in 2022. The decision sent shockwaves through the state’s political landscape, with some Republicans, fearful of voter backlash, joining Democrats in calling for a repeal of the law before it officially goes into effect in June.

But several attempts to do just that failed, with the GOP legislative majority blocking any potential vote on a repeal, saying they needed more time to consider the court ruling and its implications. And earlier this week, a GOP plan to push for anti-abortion ballot proposals to compete with an abortion access initiative expected to be on the ballot in November was leaked, signaling that Republican lawmakers were more likely to organize behind a bid to enshrine restrictive policies in the state Constitution instead of eliminating the Civil War-era ban.

On Wednesday, Democrats in the state legislature launched a renewed attempt to repeal the law. That attempt was cut short by Rep. Jacqueline Parker, R-Mesa, a staunch abortion opponent, who used a procedural move to derail a bid by Democrats to force a vote on House Bill 2677, which would repeal the 1864 law.

Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, a Democrat from Tucson, sought to temporarily amend the chamber’s rules to allow for the bill to be voted on, but Parker argued that such a motion required the support of House Speaker Ben Toma, R-Glendale. Toma, who is campaigning to represent a ruby red West Valley district in Congress, has repeatedly stated his opposition to repealing the 1864 law, and on Wednesday he reiterated that stance.

The 1864 law has been reaffirmed several times since it was first adopted when Arizona was still a territory, Toma said, and it is too early to decide whether the legislature should eliminate it, especially given that it is still being considered by the courts.

The state Supreme Court ruled that abortion rights proponents have two weeks to decide whether to challenge the law based on early arguments around its constitutionality.

Toma added that abortion is a morally fraught issue for many.

“Abortion is a very complicated topic. It is ethically, morally complex,” he said. “I would ask everyone in this chamber to respect the fact that some of us believe that abortion is, in fact, the murder of children.”

All 29 Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Matt Gress of Phoenix, voted to allow the rule change and proceed with considering the repeal bill. But the other 30 Republicans voted against the move, and the 30-30 split doomed the attempt.

Shortly after their initial attempt was shut down, Democrats made another move to force a vote on the repeal, but that was quickly quashed under the same grounds. Again, the attempt failed on a 30-30 vote.

Minority Leader Lupe Contreras, D-Avondale, told reporters that the party remains committed to pushing for a vote on the bill.

“This is not going away,” he said. “The people want it. We will keep doing the people’s work and this is part of it.”

The full chamber is set to reconvene later this afternoon.