Arizona Republican who approved repeal of near-total abortion ban explains his vote

Apr 25, 2024, 12:00 PM | Updated: 12:01 pm

Split-panel image of Arizona Republican state Rep. Tim Dunn on the left and sign that says "Abortio...

Republican state Rep. Tim Dunn said he voted to repeal Arizona's near-total abortion ban to combat a pending ballot measure that would expand abortion rights. (Arizona House of Representatives and AP Photos)

(Arizona House of Representatives and AP Photos)

PHOENIX – One of the three Arizona Republicans who voted to repeal the state’s near-total abortion ban said he did so to combat a pending ballot measure that would expand abortion rights.

Rep. Tim Dunn said he thinks taking the ban, which originated in 1864, off the books now will help defeat the Arizona Abortion Access Act in November.

“We’ve got to be able to defeat that ballot measure, and in my heart of hearts, the only way to do that was to eliminate the 1864 [law],” Dunn, a Yuma resident whose District 25 extends into western Maricopa County, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Thursday.

How does ballot measure compare to Arizona’s 1864 abortion law?

The Arizona Abortion Access Act is a proposed constitutional amendment to restore abortion law to the standards of Roe v. Wade. If passed by voters, it would ensure the right to the procedure until a fetus could survive outside the womb and also permit abortions later to save the mother’s life or protect her physical or mental health.

Organizers have said they have more than enough signatures to get the initiative onto the Nov. 5 ballot. The filing deadline is July 3.

Meanwhile, the only exception in the near-total ban is when the procedure is necessary to save the mother’s life. The sentence for somebody who performs an illegal abortion, per the 1864 law, is 2-5 years in prison. Patients can’t be prosecuted.

The law was dormant while Roe v. Wade guaranteed abortion rights at the national level, but the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark ruling last year.

After a protracted legal battle, the Arizona Supreme Court issued a decision April 9 upholding the near-total ban. However, the Civil War-era law can’t go into effect before June 8, according to Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes.

Who are the Arizona Republicans who voted to repeal near-total ban?

Dunn and fellow Republican Reps. Matt Gress and Justin Wilmeth joined Democrats in approving a bill to repeal the near-total ban on Wednesday. The bill passed the Arizona House by a 32-28 margin and was sent to the GOP-controlled Senate, which would need to approve it before Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs could sign it into law.

Enough Senators have indicated their support for the bill to pass it, but it could face procedural hurdles.

Dunn said Thursday that voting for the repeal was “one of the toughest decisions” he’s had to make. He acknowledged that many in the anti-abortion camp disagreed with him about how to combat the Arizona Abortion Access Act.

“We are all on the same team,” he said. “We want to save babies, we want to defeat that ballot measure and try to save as many babies as you can. I have a disagreement with some folks on what the best way to do that is, and that’s the struggle for the vote yesterday.”

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Arizona Republican who approved repeal of near-total abortion ban explains his vote