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Hobbs signs petition to put abortion measure on 2024 Arizona ballot

Posted 11/28/23

PHOENIX — Gov. Katie Hobbs on Tuesday said her own experiences with miscarriages and surgical procedures convinces her voters need to enshrine the right of abortion into the Arizona Constitution.

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Hobbs signs petition to put abortion measure on 2024 Arizona ballot


PHOENIX — Gov. Katie Hobbs on Tuesday said her own experiences with miscarriages and surgical procedures convinces her voters need to enshrine the right of abortion into the Arizona Constitution.

“Like so many women, I suffered miscarriages,” she said at a campaign event across the street from the Capitol where she signed the petition to put the issue on the 2024 ballot. “And I required a surgical procedure called a' D-and-C' to protect my health.”

More formally known as “dilation and curettage,” it involves scraping the uterine lining with a curette — a spoon-shaped instrument — to remove abnormal tissue. The procedure can be needed as part of the treatment for a miscarriage or post-pregnancy bleeding.

“That life-saving procedure is the same procedure that’s commonly used for abortion,” the governor continued. “And it’s exactly the kind of health care that’s at risk with these draconian abortion bans.”

But the governor said her support for the measure goes beyond her personal history.

“I’m signing the petition for my daughter,” she said, with 21-year-old Hannah by her side and also signing the petition.

“I am still outraged that in 2023 my daughter has fewer rights than I did at her age some 30 years ago,” the governor continued. “And I am going to do everything in my power to change that.”

But the measure could face some headwinds amid whether some voters may find provisions of the proposed amendment unacceptable.

Cathi Herrod, executive director of the Center for Arizona Policy, said the measure goes beyond allowing women to terminate a pregnancy at any time, without having to provide a reason, prior to fetal viability.

That generally is considered between 22 and 24 weeks.

It also would prohibit the state from denying, restricting or interfering with an abortion after that point if “in the good faith judgment of an attending health care professional (the procedure) is necessary to protect the life or physical or mental health of the pregnant mother.”

Herrod said that could legalize abortion right up until childbirth. And she is citing that language in a bid to convince people to not sign the petition or, if it makes the ballot, to oppose it.

The number of post-viability abortions in Arizona is apparently relatively small.

In its 2021 report, the most recent available, the state Department of Health Services breaks down abortions by gestational age. But the chart only goes as high as 21 weeks or longer, listing 227 procedures out of 13,896 abortions that year.

It also may not reflect all post-viability abortions on Arizona women as the procedure beyond that point has been illegal here except under narrow circumstances like a medical emergency or to save the life of the mother. Anyone desiring to terminate a pregnancy at a later point would have to go to another state.

Hobbs, questioned after the event, told Capitol Media Services she doesn’t think opening the legal door to post-viability abortions will undermine support for the initiative.

“This leaves the decision between a woman and her doctor,” the governor said.

But there are other provisions that could prove controversial.

The wording of the initiative granting a constitutional right to abortion is not limited to adults. That raises the question of whether it would provide a legal basis for abortion on demand by minors.

“There’s no such thing as ‘abortion on demand,’” Hobbs responded.

But would it allow for abortion by minors without parental consent?

“I don’t know that,” the governor said. But Hobbs said here, too, she also is not worried that may diminish support for the initiative.

Whether either of those issues influences Arizona voters is unclear.

In the days leading up to a vote on a nearly identical measure in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine attempted to convince voters there to reject the plan, saying the measure “goes much too far.”

“It allows abortion at any point in the pregnancy,” DeWine said during the campaign, with similar arguments offered — unsuccessfully — by other foes of Issue 1. “A majority of people in Ohio, if you ask them ‘Do you believe abortion should be able to occur late, late into the term,’ most of them are going to say ‘no,’” the Ohio governor said.

DeWine also raised the issue of how it would affect minors.

“It threatens the parental consent law in Ohio,” DeWine said.

Neither of these, however, altered the outcome as Ohio voters approved the measure earlier this month by a 13-point margin.

At Tuesday’s event organized by her 2026 reelection campaign, Hobbs said she was “stunned” when the U.S. Supreme Court last year overturned its 1973 decision saying women have a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

That was followed by a legal fight in Arizona courts about whether that ruling automatically reinstated the state’s territorial-era law banning abortions except to save the life of the mother. A trial court said that was the case; the Court of Appeals said that was superseded by a 2022 state law allowing doctors to perform abortions through the 15th week of pregnancy.

All that will get resolved by the Arizona Supreme Court after it hears arguments on Dec. 12.

“In Arizona, we are just one bad decision away from an 1864 abortion ban that carries prison time for doctors and provides no exceptions for rape or incest,” Hobbs said in front of a group carrying signs urging her reelection.

Hobbs campaign staffers also invited others to the event to share their views, including Frank Thorwald, a lifelong Republican who was a senior adviser to presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He said there are reasons for those in the GOP to support the initiative.

“The party has pushed to not have government intervention in individuals’ lives or businesses,” Thorwald said.

“The party has advocated for personal choice,” he continued. “How can a Republican not support a petition supporting women’s reproductive rights?”

Backers have until July 3 to gather the legally required 383,923 valid signatures.

That is 50% more than would be needed to put a new state law before voters. But backers designed this as a constitutional amendment because it could provide a basis to ask courts to override existing statutes like a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion can be performed to regulations of exactly where the procedure can be done.

It also could act as a roadblock against future legislative efforts to curb the procedure.