Arizona House votes to repeal controversial 1864 abortion ban, with help of 3 Republicans

The legislation could be taken up by the state Senate next week.

Three Republicans on Wednesday joined Democrats in the Arizona House to vote to repeal the state's controversial 1864 ban on nearly all abortions, which was revived by a court ruling earlier this month and which only includes exceptions to save the life of the pregnant woman.

The final vote was 32-28.

"I've known for a while that the votes were there, it just takes a lot of fortitude, a lot of spine," Democratic state Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, who sponsored the bill, told ABC News' Jaclyn Lee.

Hamilton said she had several phone conversations with Republicans the night before the vote and while she would not divulge the details of those conversations, she said it made her cautiously optimistic.

"The eyes of the world were watching Arizona, and that's not hyperbole, and so these are decisions that we need to make for people and if you were able to talk to folks in these districts, you would find that this is an issue where they are showing up and representing the people in their district, which is what they were elected to do," Hamilton said.

The bill now heads to the state Senate where it could be taken up next week.

State Rep. Matt Gress, one of the three Republicans who sided with Democrats and who was removed from his appropriations committee assignment by Speaker Ben Toma, urged his Senate colleagues to "quickly" focus on the matter.

"I refuse to buy into the false notion pushed by the extremes on both sides of this issue that we cannot respect and protect women and defend new life at the same time," he said in a statement.

State Rep. Tim Dunn, another Republican who voted for repeal, said the 1864 law was “not perfect,” noting how it doesn’t have exceptions for rape and incest. An anti-abortion organizer has already said that they intend to door-knock for primary opponents of Dunn, Gress and state Rep. Justin Wilmeth, the three Republicans who voted for repeal.

The Senate on Wednesday separately conducted a second read of its own abortion ban repeal bill, without objection, setting up a parallel vote -- though that is likely moot now because the House bill has been approved.

Two Republican senators have already said they will support the repeal effort, signaling the House bill should pass that chamber and then go to Gov. Katie Hobbs' desk to be signed into law.

The repeal of the abortion ban would then take effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session, which must be before June 30.

"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," state Sen. Eva Burch, a Democrat, told ABC News' Elizabeth Schulze amid an earlier, failed effort to approve the repeal bill in the state House.

PHOTO: People protest after Arizona's Supreme Court revived a law dating to 1864 that bans abortion in virtually all instances, in Peoria, AZ, April 14, 2024.
People protest after Arizona's Supreme Court revived a law dating to 1864 that bans abortion in virtually all instances, in Peoria, AZ, April 14, 2024.
Caitlin O'Hara/Reuters

Many state Republican lawmakers sharply objected on Wednesday to the push to undo the Civil War-era ban that has roiled the politics of the state after the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that it is enforceable.

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But leading conservatives like Trump, former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Senate candidate Kari Lake have touted their general support for abortion restrictions while saying they don't back the 1864 ban.

"This total ban on abortion that the Arizona Supreme Court has ruled on is out of line with where the people of this state are," Lake said in a video statement on social media earlier this month.

House Speaker Toma rose to challenge the vote on the House floor on Wednesday. The leader has been a vocal opponent of "rushing" any repeal legislation.

He later said in a statement that "it would have been prudent and responsible to allow the courts to decide the constitutionality of the pre-Roe law. Instead, we are rushing to judgment for reasons I simply cannot understand.”

Speaking during Wednesday's session, GOP state Rep. Alexander Kolodin accused the body, including the Republicans joining with Democrats, of moving forward because of political pressures and likened abortion to the killing of "infants."

"At the end of the day, your politics is important but it is not worth our souls," he said.

Another Republican state representative, Jacqueline Parker, decried the GOP votes for repeal, calling abortion "akin to slavery."

The issue is likely to be put directly before voters in November's election.

The Arizona for Abortion Access campaign has been working to get a potential constitutional amendment on the state's ballot to enshrine abortion access. Democrats believe that could boost voter enthusiasm and turnout for their candidates, given how abortion access has succeeded in previous elections since Roe v. Wade's nationwide protections were overruled in 2022.

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.

ABC News' Ely Brown and Oren Oppenheim contributed to this report.

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