Politics

In 'Dark Day For Arizona,' Ducey Enacts 15-Week Abortion Ban, New Voter Restrictions

Governor Doug Ducey signed four "extreme" bills into law on Wednesday.
Governor Doug Ducey signed four "extreme" bills into law on Wednesday. DHS Screenshot
An Arizona bill that bans abortions after 15 weeks is now law — one of four controversial bills that Governor Doug Ducey signed on Wednesday afternoon.

Along with Senate Bill 1164, Ducey also signed House Bill 2492, a bill that introduces new requirements for proof of citizenship when registering to vote and puts election workers at risk of felony offenses if they fail to comply. Many legal analysts say that the bill is likely to be challenged in court.

Ducey also signed two bills related to transgender healthcare: Senate Bill 1138, which prohibits gender reassignment surgery before the age of 18, and Senate Bill 1165, which blocks trans youth athletes from participating on sports teams that align with their gender identity.

Civil rights advocates have called the new bills "extreme" and concerning.

“The continued attacks on reproductive rights and freedom have become commonplace and continue with Governor Ducey’s signing of S.B. 1164 into law today,” said Brittany Fonteno, president of the Arizona branch of Planned Parenthood, in the organization's statement on the legislation.

The new abortion law is similar to Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban, which is now under review by the U.S. Supreme Court. The ruling in that case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, could overrule Roe v. Wade, fundamentally changing the landscape of abortion rights nationally.

The new Arizona law would ban all abortions after 15 weeks, except in cases of a medical emergency in which the mother's life is threatened. It would not allow abortions even in cases of rape or incest. Furthermore, any physician who performed an abortion in violation of the new law could be charged with a class-six felony.

"In Arizona, we know there is immeasurable valuable in every life — including preborn life," Ducey wrote in a letter explaining his signature. "I believe it is each state's responsibility to protect them."

The bill was sponsored by Republican State Senator Nancy Barto, who represents much of North Phoenix and parts of Peoria and Glendale.

The new election law, meanwhile, is also likely to face legal challenges. In a Wednesday letter to Ducey, Darrell Hill, the policy director of the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, warned that the bill "violates federal law" and its passage will "cost the state millions in litigation."

The law will now institute strict new requirements for proof of citizenship for Arizonans registering to vote.

Currently, some 30,000 Arizona voters are registered as "federal-only" voters. These voters do not have to show documents that prove U.S. citizenship to vote, unlike voters who register for state elections. They are still required to swear under penalty and perjury that they are citizens.

This is because courts have held that it is unconstitutional to require documentary proof of citizenship for federal elections.

But now, any Arizona voter who registered with a federal form and did not provide documentary proof of citizenship will automatically be investigated by the county recorder, and potentially the Attorney General's Office.

If election workers fail to do so, they could be charged with a felony offense.

Furthermore, the new law institutes new, stricter rules for proof of citizenship and Arizona residency in state elections. Voter rights advocates say these new requirements will harm community voter registration drives.

Some legal experts have also warned this could lead to tens of thousands of voters being kicked off state voter rolls, given that some voters who registered decades ago did not provide proof of citizenship upon registering.

"[The bill] is designed to attack those marginalized communities who have the least access to voter registration," Hill, the ACLU attorney, told Phoenix New Times.

He also warned about the new charges targeting election workers. "We are very concerned that this bill criminalizes election workers just for doing their jobs," he said.

In his statement regarding the bill, Ducey claimed the policy was "a balanced approach that honors Arizona's history of making voting accessible without sacrificing security in our elections."

The election legislation was sponsored by Republican State Representative Jake Hoffman, who represents Gilbert, Queen Creek, and other parts of southeast Maricopa County. Hoffman celebrated the law Wednesday on Telegram, calling it an "election integrity victory" and "a big win for Arizona and America."

His Democratic colleagues disagree. "This is a dark day for Arizona," Democratic Representative Reginald Bolding said in a statement Wednesday.

"With the stroke of his pen, Governor Ducey has hurled Arizona backwards to its ugliest past."
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Katya Schwenk is a staff writer for Phoenix New Times. Originally from Burlington, Vermont, she now covers issues ranging from policing to far-right politics here in Phoenix. She has worked as a breaking news correspondent in Rabat, Morocco, for Morocco World News, a government technology reporter for Scoop News Group in Washington, D.C., and a local reporter in Vermont for VTDigger. Her freelance work has been published in Business Insider, the Intercept, and the American Prospect, among other places.
Contact: Katya Schwenk