Apr 15, 2024 - News

Internal document shows Arizona Republicans are considering new abortion ballot measures

A group of protesters hold signs with pro abortion rights messages.

Abortion rights supporters rally in Scottsdale yesterday. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

House Republicans may refer several new measures to the November ballot that would compete with the citizen initiative to enshrine abortion rights in the Arizona Constitution, per a leaked internal document.

The big picture: Republican lawmakers are trying to figure out a path forward after last week's Arizona Supreme Court ruling that reinstated an 1864 ban on all abortions except those necessary to save the mother's life.

  • GOP leadership in both chambers blocked votes to repeal the ban last Wednesday, which would have allowed a 2022 15-week ban to go into effect.
  • Legislative Democrats plan to try again this week.

Zoom in: A presentation drafted by House Republicans' legal counsel, obtained by Axios and other outlets, proposes three ballot measures across a two-pronged strategy, the first of which it described as "complementary" to the abortion rights initiative.

  • However, that proposal would ask voters to preserve the Legislature's ability to regulate abortion, which would be taken out of lawmakers' hands by the abortion rights measure.
  • It would also codify existing laws such as a prohibition on abortions based on a baby's race or sex and so-called partial-birth abortions.
  • It wouldn't limit abortions to a specific time period or establish a right to one.

Secondly, the presentation proposes lawmakers refer two other measures to the ballot, which would conflict with the existing initiative.

  • The move would effectively offer voters three different abortion regulation options in November.
  • One of these Republican proposals would limit abortions to the first day of the 15th week of pregnancy (which the presentation described as "a 14-week law disguised as a 15-week law"), with exceptions for health of the mother or fatal fetal abnormalities.
  • The second, dubbed the Heartbeat Protection Act, would limit abortions to six weeks, except those considered medically necessary or in cases of rape or incest.

Flashback: The abortion rights initiative proposes permitting abortions to the point of fetal viability, generally around 24 weeks.

  • Abortions would, however, be allowed past that point to "protect the life or physical or mental health" of the mother.

Between the lines: The GOP lawyer argues these new measures would change the narrative and show Republicans have a plan on abortion.

  • It could also pull votes from the abortion rights initiative and put Democrats "in a defensive position to argue against partial-birth abortions, discriminatory abortions and other basic protections," per the presentation.

What they're saying: In a statement to Axios, House Speaker Ben Toma (R-Glendale) said the document outlines ideas for internal caucus discussion.

  • "I've publicly stated that we are looking at options to address this subject, and this is simply part of that," he said.
  • Toma opposes repealing the 1864 ban and said last week that lawmakers shouldn't rush to vote on it.

The other side: Arizona for Abortion Access, the abortion rights initiative campaign, called the Republicans' proposals a "dishonest attempt to refer multiple competing abortion bans to the November ballot."

  • "This shows yet again why Arizonans can't leave our most basic and personal rights in the hands of politicians," the campaign said in a press statement.
  • Co-House Minority Whip Nancy Gutierrez (D-Tucson) said Republicans are trying to "muddy the water" and confuse voters, and the leaked document shows why the Legislature should vote for a clean repeal of the ban.

What we're watching: The House and Senate reconvene Wednesday.

The intrigue: The proposal leaked after the attorney who drafted it accidentally sent it to every member of the chamber rather than just Republicans, according to the Mirror.


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