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IN FOCUS - May 3, 2024

Arizona’s territorial abortion ban is on its way from the law books to the history books.

This week, five Republican legislators sided with Democrats in voting to repeal the 160-year-old statute - culminating at a Thursday signing ceremony with Governor Katie Hobbs.

Not so fast, however. The legislation lacked an emergency clause, meaning it won’t take effect until 90 days following sine die - and nobody knows when that will be.

In the meantime, Attorney General Kris Mayes and Planned Parenthood have filed separate motions asking the Arizona Supreme Court to stay the territorial law from being enforced. Attorney General Mayes may even challenge the abortion ban at the U.S. Supreme Court, part of her strategy to “use every legal avenue available to us to stop this 1864 law from ever going into place in the state of Arizona.”

Attention now returns to the fight at the ballot to codify abortion rights in the Arizona Constitution. Competing ballot referrals appear doubtful, as House Republicans and Senate Republicans appear unaligned. That would leave a citizens’ initiative championed by Planned Parenthood as the only abortion measure on the November ballot, assuming it qualifies.

And what about the five GOP lawmakers who joined forces with Democrats?

The blowback among Republican activists and on social media has been swift, but four of the legislators - Reps. Justin Wilmeth (R-Phoenix) and Matt Gress (R-Phoenix), and Sens. Shawnna Bolick (R-Phoenix) and T.J. Shope (R-Coolidge) - represent swing districts and face difficult General Election matchups. Leading a repeal of the territorial law was a political necessity.

That job completed, the question now is whether the GOP has mitigated the electoral damage - or if the damage was already done.


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