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Law enforcement officers in Phoenix, Arizona used tear gas to break up a sizable group of protesters outside the state’s Senate building following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark abortion ruling Roe v. Wade.
“Protesters threatened to break the AZ Senate entryway glass,” Republican Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers tweeted, as members were in the middle of voting on a series of bills.
The situation escalated into a “hostage” situation as lawmakers were instructed not to exit the building, Republican Arizona State Senator Kelly Townsend said.
Law enforcement is forced to deploy tear gas to disperse protesters outside the Arizona Capitol after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022. (Arizona State Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita)
“We are currently there being held hostage inside the Senate building due to members of the public trying to breach our security,” Townsend tweeted Friday night. “We smell tear gas and the children of one of the members are in the office sobbing with fear.”
“I expect a J24 committee to be created immediately,” she added, referencing the January 6 committee that is investigating the insurrection of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021.
Law enforcement is forced to deploy tear gas to disperse protesters outside the Arizona Capitol after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022. (Rep. Sarah Liguori)
According to the lawmakers, law enforcement officers then deployed tear gas to disperse the crowds and regain control of the building.
“Crowd was dispersed with tear gas.” Rogers added, noting the protests were still continuing and the situation remained “very dangerous.”
Another lawmaker confirmed the use of tear gas outside the building.
“While working inside we were interrupted by the sound of bangs and smell of tear gas,” Rep. Sarah Liguori tweeted Friday evening. “Protestors cleared from the Capitol.”
Heavily-armed officers were seen in and around the legislative building.
State senators have continued voting in the chamber as Friday is expected to be the last day of the session. The series of votes include a massive expansion of the state’s private school voucher system that passed the House earlier this week.
“We are headed to a secure room to go vote,” Rogers said.
The Senate is also expected to vote on several election-related bills.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade Friday afternoon, effectively giving individual states the power to allow, limit, or ban the practice as they see fit.
As of June 24, Planned Parenthood of Arizona paused all abortions, both medical and surgical. Seven of nine licensed providers in the state immediately halted abortions, according to AZ Central.
Arizona has competing laws that either completely ban the procedure or limit it to 15 weeks after a woman becomes pregnant. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed the law limiting abortions to 15 weeks in March.
Thousands of protesters march around the Arizona Capitol after the Supreme Court decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion decision Friday, June 24, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
The old law, created in Arizona’s territorial days, strictly prohibits abortion. It also calls for a mandatory prison sentence of two to five years for violators. The only exception to the ban is for abortions that are necessary to save a woman’s life.
The state Senate’s Republican majority said Friday that the old law totally banning abortion is enforceable. For now, it remains unclear which law will take precedence. The state court system, likely the Arizona Supreme Court, will have to settle the issue.
At least 13 states previously passed so-called “trigger laws” which ban most abortions, following the high court’s decision. These will take effect immediately or within weeks of Roe v. Wade being overturned.
Protesters shout as they join thousands marching around the Arizona Capitol after the Supreme Court decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion decision Friday, June 24, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
These states include Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights research group.
Fox News’ Lorraine Taylor, Jessica Chasmar and the Associated Press contributed to this report.