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Arizona Gov. Hobbs is determined to repeal state's near total abortion ban

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

This week Arizona's Supreme Court ruled that the state should outlaw nearly all abortions, reviving a ban that dates back to the 1860s. The law makes no exceptions for rape or incest. It only specifies that abortions are allowed in cases where the pregnant person's life is at risk. It otherwise makes performing an abortion in Arizona punishable by two to five years in prison. For more insight on this, we're going to bring in now the governor of Arizona, Katie Hobbs, who is a Democrat. Welcome.

KATIE HOBBS: Hi. Thank you for having me.

CHANG: Thank you for being with us. So it's very clear how you feel about this ban. You called it devastating and said that you would like to see it repealed. But realistically, can it be repealed anytime soon when both the Arizona House and Senate have Republican majorities?

HOBBS: It absolutely can be repealed, and it should be repealed. This is a devastating ban, as you mentioned. And I've been calling for its repeal for the last year since I got into office. I renewed that call once this opinion was issued, and Democrats stand ready to bring that repeal to the floor. They tried to yesterday, and the Republicans blocked it. Some of the proponents for repealing it on the Republican side say that the votes are there. But leadership right now is not supportive of that. So...

CHANG: What conversations are you having with some of those Republicans who are working to repeal this law and what they plan to do to help it get repealed?

HOBBS: Well, we're having those conversations. They're really preliminary right now. We knew that one member was going to make this attempt yesterday, and we kind of let it play out. But now we're just looking at ways we need to be more involved and talking to the Republicans who we think might vote for the repeal. But there's really no guarantee that Republican leadership is going to move. So we're just...

CHANG: Right.

HOBBS: ...Continuing to look at our options. But I think that it's clear that this is devastating for Arizona, and it's not reflective of the will of the voters. And I hope that the positions right now can change.

CHANG: Well, let's talk about your attorney general, Kris Mayes, who is also a Democrat, was very narrowly elected. She has vowed not to prosecute anyone under this ban, pregnant people or doctors. How is that possible? Isn't it her job to enforce the law?

HOBBS: Well, last year I issued an executive order to protect women and doctors from prosecution for seeking or providing needed care. And this really is about overzealous...

CHANG: This is the executive order consolidating the power to prosecute abortions with the state attorney general.

HOBBS: Yes. So it gives her the discretion. And, you know, I know that that executive order is on solid legal ground.

CHANG: Well, it hasn't been tested yet...

HOBBS: Yeah.

CHANG: ...In the courts.

HOBBS: No, it has not. And I'm hopeful that it won't need to be. But it was really important to provide this executive order to assure doctors that they could continue providing care.

CHANG: But are those assurances enough to encourage doctors and pregnant people in your state to proceed with abortions? Aren't you expecting legal challenges if abortions are not prosecuted?

HOBBS: I mean, certainly that is likely. I just wanted to do everything in my power that I could. But we know that the laws in effect without this ban are still incredibly chilling. There was a woman who spoke at the press conference we held who talked about her experience needing a selective reduction. And even though that procedure wasn't illegal in Arizona, she couldn't find a provider to do it.

CHANG: Right.

HOBBS: This was even before the 15-week ban that was passed in '22 was in effect.

CHANG: Let's talk about that, because you mentioned this is not what voters want. But, right, I mean, just two years ago, the Republican-led legislature passed a law banning abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. Voters elected those lawmakers who passed that law. So how sure are you that Arizona voters don't support restrictions on abortion?

HOBBS: The vast majority of Arizonans do not support the kind of Draconian ban that is in place with this 1864 law or the 2022 law. And I want to be really clear. Some of these lawmakers who voted and even sponsored that 2022 ban who are now saying that this decision goes too far, that legislation explicitly said this law does not repeal the 1864 ban. That was in the legislation that they signed on to and supported and voted for. That is absolutely exactly what paved the way for this Supreme Court decision on Tuesday that now put this law in place.

CHANG: Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs. Thanks very much for your time.

HOBBS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Erika Ryan
Erika Ryan is a producer for All Things Considered. She joined NPR after spending 4 years at CNN, where she worked for various shows and CNN.com in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Ryan began her career in journalism as a print reporter covering arts and culture. She's a graduate of the University of South Carolina, and currently lives in Washington, D.C., with her dog, Millie.
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.
Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.