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Queen Creek, Chandler, Mesa lawmakers spar during Arizona Senate abortion debate

Posted 5/2/24

Mesa, Queen Creek, Chandler lawmakers before Arizona Senate abortion vote

State legislators from Mesa, Queen Creek and Chandler debated repeal of Arizona’s 1864 abortion law Wednesday …

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Queen Creek, Chandler, Mesa lawmakers spar during Arizona Senate abortion debate


State legislators from Mesa, Queen Creek and Chandler debated repeal of Arizona’s 1864 abortion law Wednesday before the Senate approved the measure to do away with the territorial law.

The 16-14 vote came after the coalition of all Democrats and two Republicans defeated various procedural motions designed to preclude final action on the measure approved a week earlier by the House on a 32-28 vote.

Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, criticized the fact that the proposal to repeal the measure never went through the regular legislative process but came directly to the Senate floor. That, he said, would have allowed opportunities not only for debate but also to add amendments.

For example, Hoffman wanted to add language to require abortion providers, faced with a woman who was the victim of a rape, to report that to law enforcement.

Democratic Sen. Eva Burch of Mesa pointed out that measures to repeal the old law have been proposed for at least the last six years. None have received a hearing, forcing Democrats to use procedural moves to bring the issue directly to the floor.

“You have had the opportunity to bring our bills to committee over and over and over again,” she said.

“And if you refuse to hear our bills when they are popular with the public and it’s what the people of Arizona want, then we are going to use the tools and resources available to us to make sure that our constituents are being heard.”

Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, who also voted against repeal, said what sometimes gets lost in the debate is that some pregnancies are not planned.

“Candidly, I don’t know that those of us in the pro-life community have done a great job in standing up for women in that situation,” he said, adding more needs to be done to support them.

Mesnard said his own experience convinces him the discussion of abortion needs to go beyond the claim that women have a “right to choose.” Mesnard said there needs to be an acknowledgment that “there’s a second person in the equation.”

To underline that point, he played a recording of the fetal heartbeat of his first-born daughter in the first trimester, before 13 weeks.

At least part of the debate centered around exactly how to label the statute that lawmakers just chose to repeal.

It is true it dates to the first Territorial Legislature in 1864. Burch said that fact alone should get the attention of lawmakers.

“I don’t want us honoring laws about women written during a time when women were forbidden from voting because their voices were considered inferior to man,” she said.

Gov. Katie Hobbs was set to sign the legislation Thursday.

But even with Hobbs’ signature it does not mean the old law immediately goes away, a move that would leave only a more recent statute allowing abortion until the 15th week of pregnancy.

That’s because the repeal, like most measures, cannot take effect until the 91st day after the Legislature finally adjourns for this year. But with other key issues unresolved, including the budget and additional aid for K-12 education, there are at least several weeks before that is set to occur.

That means the law, which dates to territorial days, would still be in place when there is a final order from the Arizona Supreme Court on its April 9 order declaring the older law trumps the newer 15-week limit.

We’d like to invite our readers to submit their civil comments on this issue. Email AZOpinions@iniusa.org.