Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs signs repeal of 1864 abortion ban

A near-total ban on abortion is likely to remain in effect for some time, due to the unique state laws.

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs signed the repeal of Arizona’s nearly total abortion ban, which has been in place since the Civil War. This capped a political scramble that was sparked last month by a controversial ruling from the state Supreme Court.

Hobbs, flanked by Democratic legislators who had helped pass the bill in the GOP-controlled Legislature the day after it was passed by the state Senate, signed the repeal at the Capitol of the state.

Hobbs stated at the signing ceremony that she had heard from doctors concerned about being jailed for doing their jobs, and women worried about starting a family in Arizona. “These painful conversations are the reason I’ve made it very clear that this ban must be repealed.”


Her signature marked the next chapter in the battle over abortion rights in Arizona, following the ruling of the Arizona Supreme Court to reinstate the near-total abortion ban that was first in effect in 1864 – before Arizona even became a state.

The conservative-leaning decision of the court made enforceable an abortion law that makes it a felony punishable with two to five years imprisonment for anyone who performs or assists a woman in obtaining an abortion. The law was codified both in 1901 and 1913 after Arizona became a state. It outlaws abortions from the moment of conception, but allows an exception for saving a woman’s live.

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, removing federal abortion protections, and giving that power to states. Legal questions immediately arose over whether Arizona officials had to enforce an 1864 law that never was repealed or a ban on abortion for 15 weeks that would take effect in 2022 if Roe were overturned.

The Arizona Supreme Court ruling on April 9 that the 1864 law was the most important and enforceable, sparked national outrage — from Republicans to the former president Donald Trump, who demanded that the state find a solution to the effects of this ban. This set off a chain of events at the Legislature in order to repeal it.

The culmination of the effort, which involved weeks of unsuccessful attempts to advance a bill repeal, was Wednesday, when the state Senate granted it final approval. The state House passed the repeal a week before, after its third try in three weeks. In the two closely divided chambers (three Republicans in the State House and 2 in the State Senate), a few Republicans joined Democrats to pass the repeal.

Every step of the legislative process for repeal has been praised by reproductive rights groups, Democrats and President Joe Biden.

Even after Hobbs signed the bill, it will still be difficult to determine how Arizona’s abortion laws will be implemented.

According to the Arizona Constitution a fully repealed law does not go into effect for 90 days following a legislative session, unless a supermajority of both legislative chambers has passed it.

If the current session ends at the same time as the last one, then the repeal will not be fully implemented until late October or even early November. Arizona does not have a set legislative calendar. Therefore, Republicans can also continue the session to delay the implementation of the repeal.

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes (a Democrat) said that she expects the 1864 ban will go into effect June 27 per her office’s understanding of procedural rules set by the state Supreme Court. However, officials and attorneys from reproductive rights groups are still trying to find ways to postpone this date.

The landscape of enforcement will remain fluid even when the repeal finally goes into full effect.

If the repeal is fully implemented, state policy will immediately revert to the 15-week abortion ban passed in 2022. This ban makes exceptions only for medical emergencies and does not include rape or sexual incest.

It’s almost certain that in November, a constitutional amendment proposal will be on the ballot of Arizona. This will give voters the opportunity to decide the future of the abortion rights in Arizona.

The measure would establish a “fundamental” right to abortion care until the fetal viability or approximately 24 weeks of pregnancy. If approved by voters, it would undo the near-total 1864 ban as well as the 15-weeks ban.

Hobbs denied the idea that a repeal of the 15-week prohibition could erode support for the proposed amendement, as more voters may be comfortable with a more lenient ban.

She said: “Whether the ban was passed in 1864 or in 2022, both are draconian.” Arizonans will have the chance to weigh in on this.

Hobbs said: “The experience we’ve just gone through in the few weeks following the court decision is exactly why government should never be involved with these decisions.”

The decision of the state Supreme Court also led Republicans to discuss possible contingencies. This included pushing for alternative ballot measures. GOP lawmakers have not yet made any legislative recommendations or proposed specific measures.