Republicans in Arizona halted an effort by Democrats on Wednesday to repeal an 1864 law banning almost all abortions, which the state supreme court this week ruled could go into effect.

The move came after Republican lawmakers in the state had denounced the court’s decision, including some who previously expressed support for the law. Donald Trump and other high-profile Republicans, such as the Senate candidate Kari Lake, had also declared their opposition to the ruling with Lake urging lawmakers to “come up with an immediate commonsense solution that Arizonans can support”.

The Arizona supreme court ruled on Tuesday that the 1864 law can go into effect – though it may not happen for weeks. Under the law, which predates Arizona’s statehood, there are no exceptions for rape or incest and abortions are permitted only if the mother’s life is at risk.

Democrats and one Republican lawmaker sought to repeal the law, but Republicans moved for a recess, preventing a vote on the matter.

The decision is expected to have major repercussions in the state and could significantly impact abortion access across the US south-west. Political strategists have said that the near total ban would draw moderate voters to Democrats and mobilize young voters and voters of color.

“This was an earthquake of epic proportions in Arizona politics,” said Barrett Marson, a Phoenix-based Republican strategist. “Anytime Republicans are talking about abortion, they’re losing. Now, I think the only issue is going to be abortion.”

Katie Hobbs, the state’s Democratic governor, had urged the state legislature to repeal the ban, telling CBS News: “They could do that today. They could gavel in today and make a motion to repeal this.”

Some Republicans in the state had, surprisingly, come out against the court’s decision. “This decision cannot stand,” Matt Gress, a Republican state representative, said. “I categorically reject rolling back the clock to a time when slavery was still legal and we could lock up women and doctors because of an abortion.”

Gress had tried to bring forth a bill to repeal the ban but then voted with other Republicans to move to recess.

The Republican speaker of the Arizona state house and the president of the state senate, said in a joint statement they would be “listening to our constituents to determine the best course of action for the legislature”.

Democrats, who have made Arizona a top priority in 2024, hope to flip both the state house and senate and have seized on Republicans’ decision.

“I am disgusted by the actions of my peers, both lying about their stance on this issue so important to Arizonans, and refusing to repeal the 1864 ban,” said Priya Sundareshan, a Democratic senator and Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee co-chair.

“This is why we need to flip the legislature, pass the ballot initiative and stop Republicans from taking away this right ever again.”

Reuters contributed to this report

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