Maddow Blog | Arizona’s Democratic governor signs repeal of 1864 abortion ban

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

It was three weeks ago when Republican-appointed justices on the Arizona Supreme Court gave the political world an unexpected jolt, clearing the way for a 160-year-old near-total abortion ban to take effect in the state. Under the 1864 law — approved before the end of the Civil War, and before women could vote — anyone who performs abortions or helps people access abortion care could face felony charges.

There are no exceptions for rape, incest, or the health of the pregnant woman.

Democratic efforts to repeal the generations-old state law — first approved before Arizona was part of the United States — ran into fierce resistance in the GOP-led legislature, but after multiple attempts, a repeal measure cleared both the state House and state Senate this week, after a small handful of Republicans broke ranks.

Gov. Katie Hobbs vowed to sign the repeal as soon as the measure reached her desk, and the Arizona Democrat did exactly that today. NBC News reported:

“I’ve heard from doctors who were unsure if they would wind up in a jail cell for simply doing their job, women who told me they didn’t know if it was safe to start a family here in Arizona,” Hobbs said at the signing ceremony. “These excruciating conversations are exactly why I have made one thing clear, very clear: This ban needs to be repealed.”

For advocates of reproductive rights, the good news is policymakers acted with relative speed and efficiency to undo Arizona’s 1864 law. The bad news is, there are some complicating factors.

First, as The Arizona Republic reported, the repeal bill will take effect “90 days after the last day of the year’s legislative session. It’s still unknown when the session will end, but it’s possible the repeal won’t take effect until late September.”

Second, even after the 160-year-old near-total abortion ban has been officially undone, it’s not as if abortion policy in the Grand Canyon State will revert to a progressive ideal. On the contrary, a Republican-imposed 15-week ban, approved in 2022, will take effect once the 1864 law is gone.

All of which brings us to the near future. As NBC News reported:

Politico reported that this week’s successful repeal effort has some Democrats worried that voters might be less engaged on the issue in the fall than they would’ve otherwise been if the 1864 law were still on the books.

At today's bill-signing ceremony, Hobbs criticized the 15-week ban as "draconian," and added, "We still have work to do."

State Sen. Anna Hernandez, who introduced the repeal bill in her chamber, added, "Our fight is just beginning. ... We cannot let our guard down.”

This article was originally published on