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The Daily Agenda: Life after Roe v. Wade
The inevitable comes sooner than you think ... The RGA goes hard on Hobbs ... And you should go watch a good movie instead.
The U.S. Supreme Court was widely expected to shoot down the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that kept abortion access in place in states like Arizona, where state lawmakers, aided by the Center for Arizona Policy, have chipped away at abortions for decades.
But seeing the leaked draft opinion spelling that out in print still shocked many. We don’t want to focus on leaks, though it says something about the state of the courts that the draft got out. That’s a debate for journalism ethics classes in the future.
Instead, we want to tell you where abortion law stands at this moment in Arizona and where it could be headed, should the draft opinion hold true:
As of today, you can still get an abortion in Arizona until a fetus is considered viable, about 24 weeks gestation, because that’s protected by federal court rulings. There are all kinds of restrictions and hoops in place in Arizona, though. You have to get an ultrasound, and there’s a 24-hour waiting period. Minors have to get permission from parents or a judge. Abortion providers also have a laundry list of requirements.
You can find data about who gets abortions in Arizona now because a 2010 law requires abortion providers to tell the state about them. From those reports, we know that about 13,200 Arizonans received abortions in 2020, the most recent year of data available.
The Arizona Legislature passed a 15-week abortion ban this session, and Gov. Doug Ducey signed it into law, but it hasn’t gone into effect yet. This ban has exceptions only for medical emergencies. A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted last week showed that most of the respondents in Arizona didn’t know about this new law.
Arizona also has a total abortion ban on the books from 1901. It is unenforceable currently, but was never repealed. Ducey has said that total ban is superseded by the new 15-week law, but the bill’s sponsor, Arizona Sen. Nancy Barto, disagrees. The plain language of the bill explicitly says it doesn’t repeal other parts of law, either.
A 2021 Arizona law that bans abortions due to genetic abnormalities, with limited exceptions, is still pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, and the law isn’t being enforced as the court process plays out. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich wanted the high court to immediately reinstate the law back in December, but that hasn’t happened.
If abortion becomes a state issue outside of federal protection, Arizona’s laws will take over, though, as we’ve noted, there’s at least some disagreement about which ones take precedence. It’s clear, though, that abortion would be much more restricted if Roe is overturned. The Legislature and Ducey would likely discuss what happens next.
That puts the role of county prosecutors in the spotlight. The 15-week law says abortion providers could be prosecuted, but not the people who get banned abortions. The 1901 law doesn’t prosecute people who get abortions, either, since the Legislature repealed that part of it last year. But under the 1901 ban, abortion providers would face two to five years in prison unless the abortion was necessary to save a woman’s life.
Democratic Maricopa County Attorney candidate Julie Gunnigle made her position on prosecutions for abortion crystal clear: She won’t enforce them. Appointed County Attorney Rachel Mitchell, a Republican, told 12News’ Brahm Resnik that she’d enforce the 15-week ban, but exercise prosecutorial discretion on pregnancies from rape and incest. Republican candidate Gina Godbehere didn’t respond to our questions yet, but when we hear back from her, we’ll update you.
Congress could act by legalizing abortion. But it would require eliminating the filibuster in the Senate, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said in a statement that the filibuster was “more important now than ever.” Her fellow filibuster-defender, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, is pro-life and essentially said the same.
You could map out several different ways the next few months go on abortion rights. But the fact remains: The U.S. Supreme Court is now much more conservative than the electorate. And while the leaked opinion may energize some Democratic voters heading into the midterms, the court is generationally stacked against them already, putting wedge issues like abortion on the chopping block.
#FreeBrittney: Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner, still stuck in Russia after facing charges more than two months ago, is now considered “wrongfully detained” there, according to the U.S. State Department, which could signal an increased effort in trying to get her out of the country, ESPN’s T.J. Quinn reports. Griner’s detention has stayed low-profile “so as not to make her a more valuable asset to Vladimir Putin's government,” but this change should allow for more public advocacy and pressure by her supporters and family, Quinn reports.
We want to retire, too: Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams, the city’s first female police chief, announced yesterday that she will retire this summer after about six years in the role. During Williams’ tenure, the department came under fire — and faces an ongoing Justice Department probe — over use of force, charges against protesters and treatment of people who are homeless.
We don’t want to be forced into early retirement, but we need more paying subscribers to make sure that doesn’t happen. Thankfully, it’s only $8 to help us make our dreams come true!
A dark choice: Death row inmate Frank Atwood is now scheduled to be executed on June 8 after the Arizona Supreme Court released a warrant of execution for him yesterday, the Republic’s Jimmy Jenkins reports. Atwood can choose from lethal injection or a gas chamber, but Atwood’s attorneys said a firing squad would be a safer method, though it’s not allowed in Arizona at this time.
You heard it here first: We can exclusively reveal that the Republican Governors Association kicked off its first ad buy in Arizona, aimed at Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs’ stance on Title 42. The six-figure ad buy by the RGA Arizona PAC, an RGA affiliate, will run on TV, radio and digital ads. The ad shows news clips discussing Hobbs’ reversal on the issue, saying “now is not the time for indecisive leadership, especially when it comes to the border crisis.”
The best of a bunch of lousy options: The U.S. Department of the Interior announced it will keep more water in Lake Powell rather than sending it to Lake Mead as a protective measure to prevent a hydropower disruption at Glen Canyon Dam. The department said the decision was an unprecedented but necessary, albeit short-term, solution to the increasingly dire water supply issue.
Give an interview, we dare you: Kari Lake got the newspaper profile treatment yesterday in a piece by the Republic’s Stacey Barchenger, though Lake, a former journalist, refused an interview multiple times and would only send written responses to questions. Barchenger details a run for governor by a candidate who uses rage as a tool and spends big on viral videos (and payments to family members and daily meals) while trying to mold herself after former President Donald Trump. And she notes that Lake’s ties to Turning Point USA have raised claims of campaign coordination, as well as a host of controversial hangers-on tied to her run for governor. We’ve always wondered, and Lake didn’t answer Barchenger’s questions about this: Lake continually says she quit TV news because she was forced to say things she didn’t think were true. What were those things? Why not just say what they were?
Bad news for people and places: Nearly all of the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona is owned by the federal government and became a focus on Trump’s wall-building, which has had a negative effect on the environment, the New Yorker’s Stephania Taladrid reports. And even though Trump left office and Joe Biden opposes it, border wall construction continues. Elsewhere in the borderlands, people living near border walls say they’re finding more discarded documents like IDs and passports, which some advocates say could be because Border Patrol is encouraging migrants to dump their stuff or agents are taking it from them and throwing it away, the Border Chronicle’s Melissa del Bosque reports.
Lobbying is in the eye of the beholder: As we noted in yesterday’s edition, Ducey’s budget director Matt Gress, who is running for the Legislature, took donations from lobbyists despite saying he wouldn’t while the Legislature was in session. The Arizona Mirror’s Dillon Rosenblatt has more details on about $13,000 Gress has received from lobbyists, including more than $5,000 from Arizona Public Service CEO Jeff Guldner, who is registered as a lobbyist but who Gress argues is not a lobbyist.
A raw deal: The University of Arizona’s faculty have spoken out against the UA Global Campus deal basically since it was announced, but now their Faculty Senate formally voted against it, the Republic’s Alison Steinbach reports.
The perils of email: The Attorney General’s Office found that Gilbert’s Town Council violated open meeting law when Mayor Bridgette Peterson emailed the council members to seek their input on a logo issue because a quorum of the council could’ve discussed the topic via email instead of in view of the public, Gilbert Sun News’ Cecilia Chan reports.
Courts try something new: Mesa is creating a specialty court focused on domestic violence as a way to prioritize these cases and check in more regularly with people convicted of domestic violence as they carry out the requirements the court sets for them, the Mesa Tribune’s Scott Shumaker reports.
Jelani Sample sighting: The clock is ticking, though it’s been ticking for quite awhile and keeps getting pushed back. But as of now, you have a year until you’ll need the Arizona Travel ID, our state’s version of a Real ID, in order to fly.
We’ll take your word for it: Snake and scorpion venom is bad, but what if it’s also good?
Women on the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, Arizona’s Medicaid program, could get a longer period of coverage for postpartum care if the state decides to pass a bill that has traction this session.
Republican Rep. Tyler Pace’s Senate Bill 1272 provides $2.7 million in state funds and would draw down another $6.2 million in federal funds to expand postpartum care for one year after birth.
According to the Republic’s Stephanie Innes, a wave of states have passed or are considering similar laws. In Arizona, she writes, the extension would provide care for about 3,000 people. The income eligibility ceiling is higher for pregnant people under AHCCCS rules.
The bill, which has had bipartisan support in all hearings so far, is expected to be considered as part of a budget package, Innes reports.
A movie chock-full of conspiracies about ballot “mules” who supposedly illegally dropped ballots at dropboxes in key states like Arizona is coming to theaters near you this week, though there’s no evidence offered by the group that made the movie to support their claims, the Associated Press concludes in a fact check. Perhaps the most ridiculous element of this is the conspiracy-within-a-conspiracy that the abortion leak was a way to distract from the “2000 Mules” release.
You could go see “2000 Mules” in theaters and ponder the limits of cellphone ping data. Or you could read the detailed fact check and go watch the excellent “Everything Everywhere All at Once” instead.