Arizona lawmakers in lower chamber vote to repeal Civil War-era abortion ban

Legislators in Arizona voted Wednesday to repeal an 1864 law that would have almost completely banned abortion in the battleground US state, after moderate Republicans broke ranks to side with Democrats.

The western state, which is a must-win for both President Joe Biden and his Republican rival Donald Trump in this year's White House race, jumped headlong into the divisive abortion rights debate this month when its supreme court ruled a 160-year-old law was enforceable.

That law, which was drafted long before Arizona became a state and before women had the right to vote, made it a criminal offense for anyone to carry out an abortion, and allowed for prison sentences of up to five years for anyone convicted.

It made no exceptions for rape or incest.

The court ruled that because the state had never legislated for the right to abortion, its practice of allowing terminations up to the 15-week mark had been underpinned only by the landmark Roe vs. Wade ruling by the US Supreme Court that had guaranteed reproductive freedoms across the country.

When the court -- it has three conservative justices appointed by Trump -- overturned that half-century-old ruling in 2022, Arizona had to revert to its original statutes, the state's court ruled.

The law had been due to come into effect in June, although the state's attorney general had vowed she would not allow anyone to be prosecuted under it.

Biden's party is convinced that it is a winner with voters and will drive turnout at the ballot box.

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