Arizona abortion rights face crucial test as Governor Hobbs repeals century-old ban

This legislative change, which has been long sought by advocates, sets the stage for a November ballot measure that could further secure abortion rights in Arizona.

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Image Credit: AZ Central

Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs made headlines on Thursday by signing a bill that repeals a Civil War-era law banning nearly all abortions, a move that marks a significant moment for reproductive rights in the state. This legislative change, which has been long sought by advocates, sets the stage for a November ballot measure that could further secure abortion rights in Arizona.

The repeal of the 1864 abortion ban comes amid heightened national debates over reproductive rights following the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade. The law, dormant for decades, was briefly thrust back into potential enforcement following the Supreme Court’s decision, creating a legal limbo that threatened to restrict access to abortion across Arizona.

The scene at the 9th floor rotunda outside Hobbs’ office was charged with emotion as current and former state lawmakers and reproductive rights advocates gathered to witness the signing. The law, which bans all abortions except those necessary to save a patient’s life, had been a relic of a vastly different era. Democratic Representative Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, reflecting on the significance of the moment, emphasized the convergence of historical progress and continued advocacy efforts.

Despite the legislative victory, advocates stress that the fight is far from over. The absence of an emergency clause in House Bill 2677 means the repeal will not take effect immediately, leaving Arizonans under the shadow of restrictive laws for several more months. The legislative session’s adjournment will start the 90-day countdown until the repeal officially becomes law, a delay that has motivated reproductive rights groups to push for more permanent solutions.

In response to the temporary nature of the repeal’s effect, activists are rallying support for the Arizona Abortion Access Act, a proposed state constitutional amendment. This measure seeks to protect and expand abortion rights by prohibiting many limits on abortions before fetal viability and ensuring access to care afterward to protect the life or physical or mental health of the patient.

The urgency of this ballot initiative is underscored by the statements from the campaign supporting it. “Arizonans will still be living under a law that denies us the right to make decisions about our own health,” noted a spokesperson from Arizona for Abortion Access. They warn that the current legislative victory should not lead to complacency but rather a redoubling of efforts to ensure that rights once guaranteed are not just restored but permanently safeguarded.

The path to repealing the 1864 ban was fraught with political challenges and showcased rare bipartisan cooperation, with a couple of Republican lawmakers joining Democrats to pass the legislation. This cross-party support reflects a growing acknowledgment within some segments of the Republican Party of the need for more nuanced positions on issues of reproductive health.

Meanwhile, Democratic Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes and advocacy groups like Planned Parenthood Arizona are exploring legal avenues to mitigate the delay in the repeal’s implementation. They aim to ensure that the archaic ban does not temporarily come back into force, which would pose immediate risks to healthcare providers and patients alike.

The repeal and the forthcoming ballot measure are not just about changing a specific law but also about affirming the principles of bodily autonomy and healthcare access in Arizona. These efforts occur against a backdrop of national movements either to restrict or to protect abortion rights, with several states enacting laws that either severely limit or aim to safeguard these rights.

The developments in Arizona could serve as a bellwether for other battlegrounds across the United States, where abortion rights are increasingly becoming central to political and social discourse. With the midterm elections approaching, the outcome of this fight could influence voter turnout and engagement, not just in Arizona but nationally.“Today, we should not rest, but we should recommit to protecting women’s bodily autonomy, their ability to make their own healthcare decisions, and the ability to control their lives,” said Hobbs during the signing.

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Alexandra Jacobo is a dedicated progressive writer, activist, and mother with a deep-rooted passion for social justice and political engagement. Her journey into political activism began in 2011 at Zuccotti Park, where she supported the Occupy movement by distributing blankets to occupiers, marking the start of her earnest commitment to progressive causes. Driven by a desire to educate and inspire, Alexandra focuses her writing on a range of progressive issues, aiming to foster positive change both domestically and internationally. Her work is characterized by a strong commitment to community empowerment and a belief in the power of informed public action. As a mother, Alexandra brings a unique and personal perspective to her activism, understanding the importance of shaping a better world for future generations. Her writing not only highlights the challenges we face but also champions the potential for collective action to create a more equitable and sustainable world.

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