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Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs has signed a repeal of the 1864 ban on almost all abortions

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona's Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs has lifted a Civil War-era ban for most states abortions a thing of the past by signing a bill to repeal it on Thursday.

Hobbs says the move is just the beginning a fight to protect reproductive health care in Arizona. The repeal of the 1864 law, which the state Supreme Court recently reinstated, will not take effect until 90 days after the end of the legislative session, which is typically June or July.

Abortion rights advocates are confident a court will step in to prevent a potentially confusing landscape of access for girls and women across Arizona as laws are introduced and then reversed.

Attempting to repeal the long-dormant law banning all abortions except those performed to save a patient's life, received final legislative approval on Wednesday in a 16-14 Senate vote as two Republican lawmakers joined Democrats.

Hobbs denounced “a ban passed by 27 men before Arizona was even a state, at a time when America was at war over the right to own slaves, a time before women could even vote.”

“This ban must be repealed, I said it in 2022 when Roe was repealed and I have said it again and again as governor,” Hobbs said during the bill signing.

In early April, the Arizona Supreme Court voted to restore the 1864 law, which made no exceptions for rape or incest and only allowed abortions when the mother's life was in danger. The majority opinion suggested that if convicted, doctors could be prosecuted and sentenced to up to five years in prison.

AP correspondent Donna Warder reports on a Civil War-era abortion ban that will soon be history.

Arizona state Democratic senators hug after their vote at the Capitol in Phoenix on Wednesday, May 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Democrats, the minority in the Legislature, fought back with the help of a handful of Republicans in the House and Senate, pushing a repeal to Hobbs within weeks.

A crowd of lawmakers – mostly women – took part in the signing ceremony with a solemn look, taking selfies and exchanging congratulations among Democrats.

The scene stood in sharp contrast to Wednesday's Senate vote, which dragged on for hours as Republicans laid out their motivations in personal, emotional and even biblical terms – including graphic descriptions of abortion procedures and amplified audio recordings of a fetal heartbeat.

Meanwhile, across the country, an abortion rights initiative is well underway in South Dakota more signatures than required to come up for a vote this fall. A ban in Florida worked against most abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy, before many people even knew they were pregnant.

Abortion opponents stand in front of the Capitol in Phoenix on Wednesday, May 1, 2024.  (AP Photo/Matt York)

Abortion opponents stand in front of the Capitol in Phoenix on Wednesday, May 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt York)

FILE - Pro-life protesters walk outside the Arizona Capitol ahead of the vote on the proposed repeal of the state's near-total abortion ban before it receives approval from the state House of Representatives on April 24, 2024 in Phoenix.  Democrats in the Arizona Legislature are expected to make a final push on Wednesday, May 1, to overturn the state's long-dormant ban on nearly all abortions, which a court said was enforceable.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Pro-life demonstrators march in front of the Arizona Capitol on April 24, 2024 in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Once the repeal takes effect in Arizona this fall, a 2002 law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy will become the state's current abortion law.

Whether the 1864 Act will come into force in the coming months depends on who is asked. The anti-abortion group Alliance Defending Freedom, which is defending the ban, contends that district attorneys can begin enforcing it once the Supreme Court decision becomes final, which has not happened yet.

Arizona State Senator Shawnna Bolick, R-District 2, speaks at the Capitol in Phoenix on Wednesday, May 1, 2024.  (AP Photo/Matt York)

Arizona State Senator Shawnna Bolick, R-District 2, speaks at the Capitol in Phoenix on Wednesday, May 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Arizona State Senator Jake Hoffman, R-District 15, makes a motion while speaking to the Senate President at the Capitol in Phoenix on Wednesday, May 1, 2024.  (AP Photo/Matt York)

Arizona State Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-District 15, speaks with the Senate President at the Capitol on May 1, 2024 in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Planned Parenthood Arizona filed a motion Wednesday asking the court to prevent a disruption to abortion services until the repeal takes effect. Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes has joined this effort.

The Supreme Court has set deadlines for notification of the application next week.

Arizona Democratic State Sen. Anna Hernandez, D-District 24, left, hugs a colleague after her vote Wednesday, May 1, 2024, at the Capitol in Phoenix.  Democrats secured enough votes in the Arizona Senate to overturn a Civil War-era abortion ban that the state's highest court recently upheld.  (AP Photo/Matt York)

Arizona Democratic State Sen. Anna Hernandez, D-District 24, left, hugs a colleague after her vote Wednesday, May 1, 2024, at the Capitol in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

On Thursday, former Democratic state Rep. Athena Salman celebrated approving the repeal she originally proposed in 2019 — three years before Roe v. Wade was lifted.

Until then, Arizona's near-total abortion ban had been blocked because the U.S. Supreme Court's decision guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion nationwide. Then-Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, quickly advocated enforcement the ban of 1864.

Still, the law was not implemented as it remained in legal limbo until the Arizona Supreme Court took a stand.

Salman, who resigned in January to lead an abortion rights group, said she couldn't stop thinking about what the repeal meant for her daughters.

“Future generations will not have to live under the restrictions and interventions that we have had to experience,” she said.

Arizona Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, a Democrat who was instrumental in overturning the ban, said she spent her early years in the Navajo Nation, where her parents were teachers, and saw firsthand how people reproductive rights were denied. The primary health care option on the reservation is the Indian Health Service, which operates under the umbrella of the Indian Health Service Hyde Amendment which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or threat to the patient's life.

She said she also watched her sister-in-law struggle with two difficult pregnancies, one that resulted in a stillbirth and a nonviable one in which “they had to make the heartbreaking decision to terminate that pregnancy because there was no brain development.” gave.”

President Joe Biden's campaign believes voter anger over the overturn of Roe v. Wade gave him the political advantage in battleground states like Arizona, where he beat former President Donald Trump by about 10,000 votes.

The issue has divided Republican leaders.

People in the Arizona Senate gallery on Wednesday mocked and interrupted Republican Rep. Shawnna Bolick as she declared her vote for repeal.

In general, Republican lawmakers are considering placing one or more abortion proposals on the November ballot. Such efforts could compete with Democratic-backed efforts to enshrine access to abortion in the state constitution – until a fetus can survive outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks, with some exceptions – to save the patient's life or her to protect physical or mental health.

Dr. Ronald Yunis, a Phoenix-based obstetrician and gynecologist who also performs abortions, called the repeal a positive development for patients who might otherwise leave Arizona for medical care.

“This is good to ensure women don’t have to travel to other states just to get the health care they need,” Yunis said. “I wasn’t too worried because I have great confidence in our governor and attorney general. I am sure they will continue to find ways to protect women.”

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This story has been updated to correct how the second of two difficult pregnancies experienced by Arizona Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton's sister-in-law ended. The second pregnancy was terminated because it was not viable; there was no stillbirth.

Anna Harden

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