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Seated in front of the Arizona Pioneer Women Memorial Tuesday morning, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs added her signature to a petition for a statewide ballot initiative that in November 2024 could enshrine the right to an abortion in the Arizona Constitution.
Arizona for Abortion Access, which is supported by the ACLU of Arizona, Arizona List and Planned Parenthood of Arizona, among others, spearheaded the ballot initiative, which would both expand and protect abortion rights in Arizona through a constitutional amendment.
The campaign needs to gather at least 383,923 valid signatures from Arizona voters by July 3, 2024, but the aim is to gather about double that number, organizers have said.
Prior to signing the Arizona Abortion Access Act at a media event outside the state Capitol, Hobbs said that a "bad court decision" on abortion "could come any day now," a reference to oral arguments about the state's abortion laws set for Dec. 12 before the Arizona Supreme Court.
The state's highest court could revive enforcement of a territorial era near-total abortion ban in the state that would criminalize doctors who perform any abortions except to save the life of the pregnant individual, with no exceptions for rape or incest.
The Democratic governor in October filed a 17-page amicus brief in the case before the state supreme court, which was brought by Planned Parenthood against Arizona. In her brief, Hobbs asks the court to avoid any constitutional questions about abortion rights in their deliberations and instead affirm an appellate court opinion that the pre-statehood ban can exist alongside modern abortion laws.
Right now, abortions in Arizona are legal up to 15 weeks gestation with no exceptions for rape or incest, but the law does make an exception to save the life of the pregnant person. Prior to the 15-week ban, surgical abortions in Arizona were legal up until fetal viability.
Hobbs on Tuesday, flanked by supporters holding signs with slogans that included "Republicans for Katie Hobbs" and "Veterans for Katie Hobbs," said that abortion rights are not a partisan issue. She said she was signing the ballot initiative for her 21-year-old daughter, Hannah Goodman, who has "fewer rights than I had at her age." Goodman, who was in attendance, also added her signature to the initiative.
"I'm signing this petition for my daughter and for the countless Arizonans across the state who believe in our fundamental freedoms and believe that we should be able to make our own health care decisions without the government or politicians dictating when or whether we choose to start a family," Hobbs said.
The Arizona Abortion Access Act would create a "fundamental right" to obtain an abortion anytime before viability — the point at which a fetus would have a significant chance of surviving outside the womb absent extraordinary measures. Fetal viability is typically at about 23 or 24 weeks of gestation.
After viability, the act prevents the state from enacting, adopting or enforcing any law that denies, restricts or interferes with an abortion that, "in the good faith judgment of a treating health care professional, is necessary to protect the life or physical or mental health of the pregnant individual," according to language submitted to the state in September.
But critics, promising a vigorous "no" campaign on the initiative, say the language that allows protections after viability when it's necessary to protect the physical or mental health of the pregnant person is too broad and goes beyond what most voters support.
"The broad exception of mental health to the viability standard would allow abortions for virtually any reason up until the moment of birth," Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy Action, the political arm of the conservative Center for Arizona Policy, told The Arizona Republic in September. "The measure is full of vague, undefined terms."
In an emailed statement on Tuesday, Herrod said that the initiative, if passed, would bring "California style abortion law to Arizona" and "shut moms and dads out of their minor daughter's abortion decision."
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Gov. Katie Hobbs supports Arizona's abortion access initiative