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Tensions high at Arizona capitol after abortion ruling


After Tuesday’s Arizona Supreme Court ruling essentially banning all abortions in the state, the state legislature adjourned on Wednesday despite attempts to get a motion to repeal the 1864 law up for a vote.

Gov. Katie Hobbs, as well as other Democrats and a handful of Republicans, have called for the legislature to repeal the law in order to allow for the current 15-week law to remain in place for the time being. Many Democrats have also been critical of the 15-week abortion law, but have said that it’s preferable to the alternative, which only allows abortion if a mother’s health is at risk regardless of number of weeks into a pregnancy.

On Wednesday, Rep. Matt Gress, R-Phoenix, motioned to bring Rep. Stephanie Stahl-Hamilton’s, D-Tucson, House Bill 2677 that would repeal the abortion ban law up for a vote by bypassing committee and going straight to a floor vote. However, another Republican then motioned to go to recess, which ended up passing through a voice vote.

However, this recess let to a tense moment on the House floor, in which Democratic lawmakers chanted phrases such as “Save women’s lives.”

A second attempt after recess to make a motion also failed, as Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci, R-Lake Havasu, motioned to adjourn and a roll call vote ended up leading to lawmakers going home for the week. Gress was the only Republican not to vote to adjourn, but a vacancy on the Democratic side prevented a tie vote from occurring to continue working.

“We know that the Supreme Court decision yesterday was extreme,” Stahl-Hamilton said on the floor, saying that “people will die” if the law is not repealed before it goes into effect.

“We need to take up this issue very quickly and Arizonans deserve to see their elected officials work on this,” the Republican told reporters.

House Speaker Ben Toma called the motion commotion “appallingly childish behavior” by Democrats in a statement, adding there is more time needed to sort the issue out. Now that state budget negotiations have started, the legislature is now only meeting once per week.

On the Senate side, a similar move by Democrats was attempted but the chamber also ended up adjourning.

Arizona Republican lawmakers are split on how to best navigate this, as there is a proposed constitutional amendment that is likely to hit the ballot in November anyway. Proponents of the amendment say it would cover abortions up to “fetal viability,” while opponents say it opens the door to very late-term abortions.

While some members are calling for a repeal of the 1864 law only permitting abortion if a mother’s health is at risk, others like the Arizona Freedom Caucus, are in support of the ruling.

“Sadly, it seems that some are choosing to reject the fundamental, core principle of protecting life,” the state Freedom Caucus said in a statement on Tuesday. “Some have chosen instead to jump on the bandwagon to legalize unrestricted abortions for the first 15 weeks of pregnancy — a position that would permit 95% of all existing abortions to continue.”

Ultimately, the governor is still pushing for the legislature to take action on the matter.

“Today’s legislative action was unconscionable. The extremist Republican majority had the chance to do the right thing for their constituents, and they failed,” Hobbs said.

“My Executive Order protecting doctors and women from overzealous county prosecutors is still in effect, and I remain committed to an immediate repeal of this draconian ban,” she continued.