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Gov. Katie Hobbs signs the repeal of the 1864 law

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Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs signed a repeal of the state’s 160-year-old abortion ban on Thursday, repealing one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws after weeks of hard-fought political negotiations in the state capital.

“Today we are doing what 23 governors and 55 state legislatures refused to do, and I am so proud to be the ones who got the job done,” Hobbs said, reaffirming in brief remarks that she would “do everything in her power.” my power is to protect our lands. reproductive freedoms, because I trust women to make the decisions that are best for them.”

About 30 Democratic lawmakers and abortion rights advocates from Planned Parenthood and other groups stood with the governor as she signed the bill in her office in the Capitol complex.

But neither the governor’s signature nor the Arizona Legislature’s momentous decision Wednesday to repeal the ban will immediately bring stability to a policy area that has been in flux — and the subject of intense political debate — for nearly two years. The Arizona Supreme Court renewed that uncertainty with its high-profile decision in April upholding Civil War-era abortion policies.

The governor’s signature does not mean the ban will disappear immediately. That could take months, but once it is officially repealed, a 2022 law will come into effect banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The law allows abortions after 15 weeks if the pregnancy causes life-threatening conditions or “a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function,” but contains no exceptions for rape or incest.

Moments after the repeal vote became official, Planned Parenthood Arizona announced it had asked the Arizona Supreme Court to stay enforcement of the 1864 ban. A day earlier, Attorney General Kris Mayes offered another legal option to delay enforcement.

But with those efforts failing, the state could return to the confusion of 2022 after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and no one could say for certain which abortion law governed Arizonans.

Here are some of the issues at play.

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Planned Parenthood asks court to delay 1864 abortion ban

Following the Senate’s successful vote to repeal the 1864 law, Planned Parenthood Arizona filed a motion with the state Supreme Court, asking it to delay issuing its mandate until after the repeal takes effect.

Without further action, the group claims, “abortion care could be at a standstill for several months, and Arizonans will live under a draconian total abortion ban, despite efforts to block its enforcement.”

But if the court grants the claim, it could mean that the ban is never enforced.

If the court agrees with Planned Parenthood, the final mandate would not come until 90 days after the date the Legislature ends its session for the year. Add to that a 45-day delay in enforcement, decided in a separate case, and the likely date of enforcement extends beyond the November election, when voters will likely have to decide on a ballot measure that includes abortion rights in the state constitution .

In theory, the 1864 law would not go into effect until voters have a chance to pass a new, permissive abortion law that would replace the law that the Legislature repealed this week, as well as the 2022 law banning abortions after fifteen weeks of abortion. pregnancy.

“We hope the Court remains true to its word and respects this long-awaited legislative action by quickly granting our motion to end uncertainty about the future of abortion in Arizona,” Planned Parenthood Arizona said in a statement. declaration.

Kris Mayes sees what could stick at the Supreme Court

Mayes has made several attempts to delay when the April 9 court ruling becomes final. A motion to reconsider the ruling was denied, extending the deadline for the ban to be enforced until the end of June, according to Mayes’ office. This is due to the order in a separate case that enforcement would not take place until at least 45 days after the court’s decision becomes final.

But on Tuesday, Mayes asked the justices to delay their final mandates again for 90 days so she can consider taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. She said the court relied on a state law that was found unconstitutionally vague in a separate federal case, a break that could give her a path to the nation’s highest court.

The federal case centers on an Arizona law that gave fetuses human rights, a law that is currently unenforceable by court order.

“My office needs time to thoroughly evaluate these issues before deciding whether or not to ask the United States Supreme Court to review our state court’s decision,” Mayes said in a statement.

On Thursday, the Arizona Supreme Court set a timetable for hearing the requests from both Mayes and Planned Parenthood. It ordered groups defending the ban to respond by May 7.

Effective dates of Arizona’s abortion ban legislation

Laws passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor typically take effect 90 days after the end of the year’s legislative session, known as sine die. It is not yet known when sine die will be this year.

The Legislature normally ends its work in May or June by completing its most important and only constitutionally mandated task: establishing a state budget with the governor. It’s possible Hobbs and lawmakers can finish before the state’s June 30 budget deadline.

It’s also possible that lawmakers could finalize the state budget before June 30 and only declare it sine die later. Last year sine die was July 31, which meant the effective date of the bills was October 30.

If Parliament completes its work for the year by the end of May, as Hobbs predicted this week, the repeal of the abortion ban would take place at the end of August.

Hobbs: special session on abortion ‘exercise in futility’

On the campaign trail in 2022, Hobbs promised she would call Republicans into a special session on Day 1 to repeal the ban. She did not, and her staff said at the time that the repeal was not necessary because courts had ruled that the 15-week law prevailed.

Hobbs told The Arizona Republic on Wednesday that she did not regret the decision not to call last year’s special session, noting that it would have been an “exercise in futility” given the Republican majority in the Legislature. They only rescinded the ban after the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling last month and the resulting political pressure, she said.

Her administration has insisted that a special session was not an option this year, citing uncertainty that Republicans would vote with Democrats to ensure repeal would pass. That played out in the House of Representatives, where several heated attempts at repeal took place before the vote stuck.

A special session would mean the repeal could take effect sooner, but Hobbs said Wednesday the difference was minimal as she expected the Legislature to end its work later this month.

“The difference in that time is minimal right now compared to the logistics of it,” the governor said. “It just wasn’t necessary, it wouldn’t solve the problem. And the chaos we saw in the House of Representatives would not have changed with a special session.”

Enforcement in favor of repeal of Arizona’s abortion ban?

If efforts to delay enforcement of the territorial ban fail, Mayes said the 1864 law would be the law of the land from June 27 until the repeal takes effect. Would this mean clinics would close and abortion providers would be sued? Those questions cannot yet be answered.

Hobbs issued an executive order last year giving power over all abortion prosecutions to Mayes, who has vowed never to prosecute anyone over an abortion. County attorneys, including Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell, have criticized the order but have not yet legally challenged it.

Abortion clinics are currently only in three counties: Coconino, Pima and Maricopa. Only one, Maricopa County, has a Republican attorney.

Mitchell told CNN last month that her office has not received a request from a law enforcement agency to prosecute an abortion provider since Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022. But Mitchell has also indicated in public statements that she would investigate such a referral for possible prosecution if she receives one.

Even without charges, abortion providers suggest they may temporarily suspend services if the ban is in effect.

Dr. Gabrielle Goodrick, a family physician and owner of Camelback Family Planning in Phoenix, told The Arizona Republic last month that providers have no plans to ignore the law when it goes into effect.

“If you are charged with a crime for performing an illegal abortion, you will have difficulty maintaining your medical license,” she said.

Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative legal group defending the 1864 law, would like to see clinics closed during the potential enforcement period.

“Arizona law that protects life from the moment of conception must be enforced in accordance with relevant laws and orders,” said Jake Warner, senior counsel with the group. “Life is our most fundamental human right, and while we are disappointed by the repeal, we are grateful that it will not take effect until 90 days after the end of the current legislative session, saving so many lives.”

Reach reporter Stacey Barchenger at [email protected] or 480-416-5669. Reach the reporter [email protected] or 480-276-3237. Follow him on X @raystern.