The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Arizona governor signs repeal of 1864 abortion ban

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs signs the repeal of the Civil War-era near-total abortion ban, Thursday, May 2, 2024, at the Capitol in Phoenix. Democrats secured enough votes in the Arizona Senate to repeal the ban on abortions that the state’s highest court recently allowed to take effect. (AP Photo/Matt York)

On Thursday, May 2, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs signed the repeal of a 160-year-old abortion law that could have banned nearly all abortions except to save a mother’s life.

Last month, the Arizona Supreme Court reinstated the inactive 1864 law, a move made possible when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.

However, the Arizona House of Representatives voted to repeal the law April 24, and the Arizona Senate Democrats, joined by two Republicans, followed suit on Wednesday, May 1.

A 15-week abortion ban enacted in 2022 will remain in place.

The 1864 law was created nearly 50 years before Arizona became a state in 1912 and outlaws abortions from the time of conception unless the pregnancy is life-threatening to the mother.

Neither the 1864 law nor the 2022 law make exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

Heather Montes Ireland, an assistant professor of women and gender studies at DePaul, said Americans will continue to see states working towards abortion bans after the Civil War-era law in Arizona gained traction.

“These states where you have folks who are particularly Christian patriarchal fundamentalists, they will continue to fight for this,” Montes Ireland said. “They see this very much as part of their role in our society to control women.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade blocked the abortion law and guaranteed the constitutional right to abortions. After Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022, supporters and opponents of abortion rights began debating whether the 1864 Arizona law is enforceable. 

In a 4-to-2 decision in the Arizona Supreme Court in early April, the law was ruled to be “enforceable.” The decision also overrode the previous 15-week ban.

Under the 1864 law, anyone who provided, supplied or administered abortion procedures or medications could have been prosecuted and sentenced to two to five years in prison if convicted.

Ashley Scheffler, a junior math major at DePaul, stumbled across the abortion ban because of an honors class she is taking. She said learning about the 1864 law in Arizona dampened her hope for abortion rights in some parts of the country. 

“That old of a law is a little bit unsettling in general,” Scheffler said. “Not to say that old laws should be completely erased, but I think that there needs to be room for modification.”

Montes Ireland said marginalized women are most affected by any kind of abortion ban.

 “We have seen that these stereotypes about women of color (and) who they are as mothers, has already deeply affected the ways that they’re not only able to access things like abortion care, but whether or not they might be criminalized for it,” Montes Ireland said. 

Heather Litchfield, the Pacific Southwest coordinator for Students for Life, who is based in Arizona, said the anti-abortion movement does not need to add exceptions to abortion laws in the case of rape or incest because all life is “intrinsically valuable.”

“The circumstances of your conception should not define whether or not you get to live or die,” Litchfield said. “We won’t give a rapist the death penalty, but will give their innocent child the death penalty? It doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense.”

Abortion also has been a main issue in the upcoming 2024 election. One in eight voters say abortion is the most important issue in the election, and 55% of voters support nationwide abortion protection according to a survey done by KFF.

Former President Donald Trump said the abortion ban goes too far and that he’s sure that the governor will “bring it back into reason.”

Trump has wavered in his support for abortion bans. He appointed three of the Supreme Court judges who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade but has said he would not sign a national abortion ban if elected president.

Litchfield said the anti-abortion advocates do not like that Trump has discouraged a total abortion ban.

“Be pro-life all the time, and don’t change your stance just for political gain,” Litchfield said. “Nobody from the left is going to vote for him just because he said that Arizona went too far.”

President Joe Biden doubled down on his support for abortion rights in a statement released after the Arizona Supreme Court decision.

“We will continue to fight to protect reproductive rights and call on Congress to pass a law restoring the protections of Roe v. Wade for women in every state,” Biden’s statement said.

Fourteen states have banned abortion in nearly all circumstances, and seven states have restricted access.

Florida passed an abortion ban Wednesday, May 1, restricting abortion in most cases after six weeks of pregnancy. 

Meanwhile, abortion rights groups in Arizona are working towards putting abortion on the November ballot with a signature drive that would add the constitutional right to abortion before the fetus could survive outside the mother’s womb.

Litchfield said Students for Life will try to keep the Arizona referendum off the November ballot.

Scheffler, the DePaul student, said she hopes for there will be more freedom of choice for women in the future, “placing power back in the hands of those who need it.”

Related Stories


More to Discover