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Hobbs counters abortion, contraceptive attacks |

Hobbs counters abortion, contraceptive attacks |

Gov. Katie Hobbs joined a state lawmaker and the leader of a reproductive rights advocacy group Thursday to announce an effort to enact a law protecting the rights of all women to access contraceptives.

And on Friday she moved to strip the state’s 15 elected county attorneys of their ability to prosecute medical professionals who perform abortions and give it to fellow Democrat Attorney General Kris Mayes.

Given the AG’s views on the issue, that could effectively lead to total decriminalization of abortion in Arizona as she won’t bring charges.

Since the so-called Dobbs decision, laws blocking or limiting  abortion that Roe had barred have been implemented in Arizona and a host of other Republican-led states.

“It didn’t take long for extremist politicians to turn this into a full-core attack on access to reproductive care, including contraception,’’ Hobbs said. “Just last year, every Arizona Republican in Congress voted against ensuring that every American can access basic contraception.’’

Speaking on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the high court’s decision overturning Roe, Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, said she would introduce legislation next year making access to contraception a right for all Arizonans. 

“Enough, is enough,’’ Salman said. “We believe that contraception is central to a person’s privacy, health, well-being, dignity, liberty, equality, and ability to participate in social and economic life.’’

But getting the legislation through the Republican-controlled Legislature will be a heavy lift, and one GOP lawmaker pronounced Salman’s bill dead on arrival.

Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, said that while he has not seen the proposal, he believes Salman will include provisions that make it unpalatable for Republicans. 

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“All I’m doing is guessing based on who is introducing the bill what’s going to be in it, and it will be totally unsellable to a majority of the caucus and the majority of the Legislature,” Grantham said. 

“You need 31 (House) votes and I personally don’t know one Republican who will support that bill if it’s the bill I think it is.’’

Salman said her proposal has not even been drafted.

Despite that, Grantham called the proposal unnecessary since contraception is protected by other Supreme Court rulings.

“Everybody’s got a right to contraception anyway,’’ he said.

That may only be true for the moment.

Hobbs, Salman and others who spoke at the news conference highlighted Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in the Dobbs case as a reason fear the right to contraception is also at risk. 

Thomas pointed to cases that established the right to contraception, outlawed sodomy laws and legalized same-sex marriage as decisions hinging on privacy rights he believed are not in the Constitution.

 And he specifically suggested that the full court “should reconsider’’ those decisions – including the 1965 ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut that concluded there is a right to privacy that prevents states from making the use of contraception by married couples illegal.

That part of his ruling spurred Democrats in the U.S. House to pass a law last year protecting contraception access across the nation, but it was blocked by Senate Republicans.

Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy, a powerful group that has pushed anti-abortion laws at the state Capitol for years, said Democrats are making much ado about nothing.

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“The proposal appears to be a solution in search of a problem,’’ Herrod said.

“No one is talking about restricting contraception,’’ she continued. “No one is talking about making contraception illegal or leaving it up to the state Legislature to determine access. So it’s a non-issue.’’

Salman, however, pointed to a fetal “personhood’’ law pushed by Herrod’s group and enacted in 2021 as a concern. The law confers rights to unborn children and she said it could be used to ban certain forms of contraception in the state if higher courts overturn a federal judge’s ruling that have so far blocked its implementation. 

“Arizona is one of the states where birth control can just be under extreme legal jeopardy at the snap of a court (if) they lift that injunction,’’ Salman said. 

Herrod called that “a far-fetched notion.’’

“The language in what we call the preemption clause that is before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals) currently, that is about unborn children in the womb,’’ she said. “I thought that the individuals today were talking about preventing pregnancy. That would be the point of contraception.’’

Both Hobbs and Salman acknowledged that politics and Democrats’ hope of getting voters to pass a separate constitutional amendment allowing abortion in the state and winning control of the Legislature are part of the reason they’re acting now.

Bre Thomas, CEO of Affirm, a nonprofit that coordinates federal contraception funds and advocates for making reproductive healthcare accessible, said backers of an abortion rights ballot initiative are doing polling and working to craft a ballot measure. They have not yet made any public announcement, she said.

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“And you know, there’s a huge amount of resources that will be needed,’’ Thomas said in response to a question about the status of a potential ballot measure.

“We’re looking at $40 to $50 million,’’ she said. “And so that needs to be successful.’’

Hobbs said her agenda is to protect the rights and freedoms of Arizona residents.  

“I think this legislation, (and) a ballot measure to protect abortion rights, is in line with that.’’ the governor said.

“That’s my focus,’’ Hobbs said. “And in an election year, voters will have the ability to reinforce that or not.’’

The governor also issued a warning to lawmakers should they pursue any new restrictions on what she called “access to basic reproductive healthcare.’’

“Legislators should know that any effort to take away our reproductive rights will quickly meet with my veto pen,’’ she said.

  • June 25, 2023