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Arizona governor's signing of abortion law repeal follows political fight by female lawmakers

By ANITA SNOW and MORGAN LEE

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs's signing of a repeal of a Civil War-era ban on nearly all abortions was a moving occasion for women fighting to make the 19th-century law a thing of the past heard.

Current and former state lawmakers and reproductive rights advocates crowded the ninth-floor rotunda outside Hobbs' office Thursday afternoon, hugging and snapping selfies to capture the moment. Some cried.

“It's a historic moment, and it's a place and a time where all exciting moments come together,” said Democratic Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton during the signing ceremony. “It is a time in which we clear up what lies in the past and does not affect us. “Does not fit into the present.”

Stahl and Sen. Anna Hernandez, also a Democrat, were chosen to speak at the ceremony because of their support for repealing the long-standing law that bans all abortions except those that save a patient's life.

Final approval of the legislation came Wednesday in a 16-14 vote in the Senate, with two Republican lawmakers joining Democrats during a roughly three-hour session that discussed the motivations for the vote as personal, emotional and even biblical terms were described. There were graphic descriptions of abortion procedures and amplified audio recordings of a fetal heartbeat, as well as warnings against “legislating religious beliefs.”

Abortion ban supporters on the Senate floor mocked Republican state Sen. Shawnna Bolick as she declared her vote for repeal, then were berated by Republican colleagues. Bolick is married to state Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick, who voted with the majority in April to reinstate the 1864 law. He faces an election to remain in office in November.

The House had previously approved the repeal, with three Republicans in that chamber breaking ranks.

Hobbs says the move is just the beginning of a fight to protect reproductive health care in Arizona. The repeal is scheduled to take effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session, which typically occurs in June or July after the budget is approved.

“This means everything to upset this archaic, inhumane territorial law,” said Dr. Gabrielle Goodrick, founder of Phoenix-based Camelback Family Planning, which performs a third of all abortions in Arizona.

A 2022 law banning the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy will then become Arizona's predominant abortion law.

Abortion rights advocates, led by Planned Parenthood Arizona, have filed a petition with the state Supreme Court to block the 1846 law from taking effect before it is repealed. If rejected, it could result in a disruption to abortion services for girls and women.

The 19th century law had been in effect in Arizona since 1973 with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade blocked the constitutional right to abortion nationwide. When the federal law was repealed in 2022, Arizona found itself in legal limbo.

The Arizona Supreme Court last month pushed the state back decades and reinstated the ban, which leaves no exceptions for survivors of rape or incest. The judges suggested that doctors could be prosecuted for violating the law, with a maximum prison sentence of five years if convicted.

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's Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes is pushing to delay enforcement of the ban until the end of July.

Meanwhile, abortion rights advocates are collecting signatures to enshrine reproductive rights in the Arizona Constitution. A proposed ballot measure would allow abortions until a fetus can survive outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks, with exceptions to save the parents' lives or protect their physical or mental health.

Republican lawmakers are considering putting one or more competing abortion proposals before voters in November.

Elsewhere in the U.S. this week, supporters of an abortion rights initiative in South Dakota submitted far more signatures than were needed for the fall vote, while in Florida a ban on most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy went into effect Many people know that they are pregnant.

President Joe Biden's campaign believes anger over the overturn of Roe v. Wade will give them a political advantage in battleground states like Arizona, while the issue has divided Republican leaders.

For the Democratic women leading the repeal effort in Arizona, Thursday was a celebratory moment but also showed there is still work to be done, they said.

In an interview before the signing ceremony, Stahl Hamilton spoke about her early years on the Navajo Nation, where her parents were school teachers and where government-funded clinics still restrict abortion services.

She told of a sister-in-law who she said struggled with two difficult pregnancies, one that resulted in a stillbirth and a non-viable one in which “they had to make the heartbreaking decision to terminate that pregnancy because there was no brain development .” ”

“And I can imagine that if any of these laws had been in place at the time that she needed care, it would have had really devastating consequences,” Stahl Hamilton said.

When the Civil War-era ban was passed, all 27 lawmakers were men, America was at war over the right to own slaves, and women were not allowed to vote, Hobbs said. The Arizona Legislature is now made up of roughly equal numbers of men and women.

Hernandez became involved in politics after her younger brother Alejandro was killed in a police shooting in April 2019. She and her other two siblings have tattoos of his portrait on their left arms.

Her sister is a labor and delivery nurse and she has two nieces, ages 16 and 12, she said.

“In this moment, I think about them being able to grow up in the state we love so much and having the rights that they have,” she said.

Former Democratic state Rep. Athena Salman was so overcome with emotion Thursday that she could barely speak when she was called to the lectern at the signing ceremony. She proposed in 2019, three years before the repeal of Roe v. Wade proposed a repeal of the 19th century law.

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

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

Anna Harden

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