Hobbs, Mayes launch website to help Arizona navigate changes to abortion laws

Photos by Caitlin Sievers & Gloria Rebecca Gomez | Arizona Mirror

Gov. Katie Hobbs and Attorney General Kris Mayes, both staunch reproductive rights advocates who ran on promises to protect abortion access, unveiled a website on Thursday that includes information on Arizona’s changing abortion laws and connects women seeking a procedure with providers. 

The website’s launch follows a month of turmoil in the political arena and uncertainty for healthcare providers across the state after the Arizona Supreme Court ruled to reinstate a near-total abortion ban from 1864

The law, which was passed before Arizona became a state, threatens doctors with a minimum of 2 years in prison for performing an abortion for any other reason than saving a woman’s life. That punishment isn’t expected to be enforceable until June 8 due to court orders that delay the ruling’s effect. Until then, a 15-week limitation on abortion is the law of the land.

In a statement accompanying the announcement, Hobbs said the new website, which is a part of her official Arizona governor’s website, serves as an educational tool to keep Arizonans informed amid the shifting legal landscape.

“The Arizona Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the 1864 total abortion ban left millions of women and doctors wondering what their rights are when seeking or providing reproductive health care. I’m proud to deliver this comprehensive website to provide timely updates, trusted resources, and a safe venue to seek reproductive health care options,” she wrote. 

“In the wake of the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision to reimpose a near-total abortion ban from 1864, it is important for us to provide accurate, up-to-date information to Arizonans,” echoed Mayes. 

The website acknowledges that the legal status of abortions in Arizona is not yet settled. 

“The earliest the 1864 near-total abortion ban could take effect is June 8, 2024. This page will be updated as we learn more,” reads a banner at the top of the FAQ webpage. 

While the state Supreme Court upheld the 1864 law, litigation in the case is still ongoing. Earlier this week, Mayes filed a motion urging the court to reconsider its decision, and Planned Parenthood Arizona, which has led the court challenge against the law, has until the end of the month to file an intent to pursue arguments that the law is unconstitutional.  

Democratic lawmakers in the state legislature, with the help of a handful of Republicans, are also pushing through a repeal that could mean the 1864 law will only be temporarily enforceable after it goes into effect over the summer. And Arizona voters will likely get a chance to weigh in on the legality of abortion in November, when a pro-abortion initiative enshrining the procedure as a right in the state Constitution is expected to appear on the ballot. 

In the meantime, however, access to abortion is uncertain. Reproductive rights groups fear a repeat of 2022, when the state’s abortion clinics shuttered while the 1864 law was briefly in place after the fall of Roe v. Wade, and women seeking help were left in the lurch. 

An executive order issued by Hobbs last year may prevent the criminalization of any doctor. The order centralizes the prosecutorial authority over abortion law violations in the attorney general’s office, preemptively blocking any attempt from county attorneys to take doctors to court. And because Mayes has repeatedly stated that she won’t prosecute any abortion law violation, the 1864 law may never be enforced even if it goes into effect. 

But the legal strength of the order has yet to be tested in court, and county attorneys protested its passage, warning they would launch a lawsuit against it. So far, no such challenge has materialized, though at least one county attorney, Yavapai County’s Dennis McGrane, has signaled an interest in enforcing the 1864 law.

The website includes information on reproductive health clinics in the state, how to obtain free or low-cost birth control, mental health helplines and a link to a search engine to find a nearby abortion clinic. Also included is information on how to cover an out-of-state abortion. The rates of women who seek abortion care in other states have spiked in the post-Roe world. As many as 21 states currently ban or restrict the procedure. 

“It’s more important than ever to know how to find the care you need,” reads the title of the website’s list of resources. 

In their written statements, Hobbs and Mayes vowed to continue working to safeguard abortion access. 

“I refuse to accept a future in which my 22-year-old daughter has fewer rights than I did when I was her age, and I refuse to let radical extremists take control of women’s bodies,” Hobbs said. 

“Rest assured, I’ll do everything I can to prevent this 160-year-old law from ever taking effect,” added Mayes.

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