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Protestors meet at Capitol while House Republicans block vote to repeal abortion ban

Lawmakers in the Senate heard the first reading of a bill to repeal the 1864 abortion ban, which was upheld by the Arizona Supreme Court last week

Arizona Reps. Lorena Austin, Patty Contreras, Elda Luna-Najera, Betty Villegas and U.S. Congressional candidate Raquel Terán pose for a picture with protesters outside of the Arizona State Capitol on Wednesday, April 17, 2024 in Phoenix.

Protestors gathered outside the Arizona State Capitol on Wednesday after state House Republicans block a vote on a bill that would have repealed Arizona's 1864 abortion ban.

Some Representatives joined protesters outside the Capitol, including Rep. Lorena Austin, D-Mesa. Austin said that Republicans were attempting to silence Arizona voters. 

"Republicans are not willing to do the work of the people," Austin said. "This is now the second time we've tried to do this in the past two weeks because Republicans are not interested in repealing this ban from 1864."

The House blocked the vote with a 30-30 vote tie. 

"(Republicans) message themselves as the Freedom Caucus and party, but they take away freedoms when it comes to women's autonomy over their body," Rep. Cesar Aguilar, D-Phoenix, said. "We need more Republicans on board."

READ MORE: AZ Supreme Court upholds territorial abortion ban, set to be illegal in nearly all cases

Aguilar also said there is talk that Democrats will have the votes if the bill can move further.

"The rumor is that we have the votes if it gets put on the board,"  Aguilar said. "That's our difficult part."

In the early afternoon, state Senate Democrats were able to push forward a hearing to repeal the 1864 abortion ban in a 16-14 vote. Two Republican senators, T.J. Shope, R-Casa Grande, and Shawnna Bolick, R-Phoenix, joined them.

The repeal will be heard despite continued efforts from Sen. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale. Kern first motioned to table the bill, then to go to recess, and finally to adjourn. Each of Kern’s attempts to prevent the repeal from being heard failed. 

Even with the first reading of the repeal on April 17, the soonest a final repeal vote could happen would be in two weeks, with two more readings.

Among the groups gathered on the capitol lawn were the Young Democrats at ASU. 

"In order to actually show up and express opposition, it requires you to be here on a Wednesday, and that makes it difficult for people who have jobs, who have income, for students like us to show up," said Young Democrats at ASU member Gem Wolf-Schwaiger, a sophomore studying human communication and political science.

In the morning, students from the group who went to the capitol entered the House gallery and, later in the day, the Senate gallery to show their support for a repeal. 

"Our organization really calls on every member of the state Senate to repeal the archaic 1864 abortion ban because people will die between now and the (​​Arizona Abortion Access Act)," Isabel Hiserodt, a junior studying political science and president of Young Democrats at ASU, said. 

The Arizona Abortion Access Act is a proposed state constitutional amendment that would establish a right to abortions in Arizona. The measure has over 500,000 signatures as of April 2, surpassing the requirement to put it on the November 2024 ballot. 

"We've got several months left to go but (the signatures) demonstrate that Arizona voters really want to see our effort on the ballot," said Chris Love, a spokesperson for the Arizona Abortion Access Act campaign.

Tina Kilcullen, 50, and Mita Cuaron, 71, came from Tucson to protest in front of the state Capitol.

"I came here today because women aren't criminals," Cuaron said. 

Kilcullen said, "November is going to tell the tale," referencing the Arizona Abortion Access Act ballot initiative. 

A small group of anti-abortion counter-protestors also gathered outside the capitol building, dwarfed by the much larger group of abortion rights advocates.

Most counter-protestors were concerned about potential abortion ballot efforts in the upcoming election cycle.

Charmon Pullman, 64, of Mesa, said he was worried about the ballot initiative's parameters.

"I worry about the initiatives that might be coming," Puhlmann said. "That means that would be all the way up to birth." 

Many of the anti-abortion protestors appealed to their religious beliefs. Some came with fellow churchgoers worried the state legislature would override the court’s decision.

Counter-protestor Troy Jenkins, 35, of Phoenix, said women are destroying their bodies and making bad decisions with little accountability. 

"They are not held accountable, and this is why our women are failing out here. They think they're winning because of false degrees that are usually worthless."

READ MORE: Mayes says she will defend access to abortion post Supreme Court decision. What comes next?

Daniel Hernandez, 21, is currently taking a semester break from working toward a degree at ASU. He said he supports the ballot initiative because of the Republicans' slim majority in both chambers of the state legislature.

"But honestly, that's why we support a ballot initiative, that's why we're out here," Hernandez said. 

Edited by Shane Brennan, Walker Smith and Angelina Steel.

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