Arizona Governor Signs Into Law Bills on Abortion, Transgender Issues
Arizona Governor Signs Into Law Bills on Abortion, Transgender Issues

By Mimi Nguyen Ly

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law three bills on Wednesday to restrict abortions, restrict gender reassignment surgeries, and block transgender athletes from participating in female sports.

Ducey signed Senate Bill 1164 (pdf) to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The state legislature passed the bill largely along party lines. The measure contains exceptions for medical emergencies that could cause the woman to die or face “substantial impairment of a major bodily function.”

Doctors who carry out abortions beyond 15 weeks face a class 6 felony charge, and if convicted, face a year in prison and lose their license to practice medicine. Meanwhile, women who receive an abortion after 15 weeks may not be prosecuted, according to the bill.

“In Arizona, we know there is immeasurable value in every life—including preborn life,” Ducey said in a letter on Wednesday (pdf). “I believe it is each state’s responsibility to protect them.”

He has signed every pro-life bill that has reached his desk since he took office in 2015.

The latest bill was sponsored by state Sen. Nancy Barto and is modeled after a Mississippi law that’s currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court, which is due to rule by the end of June on the law’s constitutionality.

Arizona’s abortion ban explicitly states that it doesn’t overrule a state law, which has been in place for over 100 years, that would automatically outlaw abortion if the Supreme Court fully overturns the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. The Roe v. Wade ruling has enabled abortion up to the 24th week of pregnancy nationwide.

Ducey also signed two other bills that “maintain fairness in public school athletics” and “protect underage children from irreversible surgeries,” his office announced.

Senate Bill 1165 (pdf), which is also sponsored by Barto, requires all Arizona public schools and any competing private schools to have athletes participate in sports teams according to their biological sex.

“S.B. 1165 creates a statewide policy to ensure that biologically female athletes at Arizona public schools, colleges, and universities have a level playing field to compete,” Ducey said in a letter (pdf) explaining his rationale for signing the bills. “Every young Arizona athlete should have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities that give them a sense of belonging and allow them to grow and thrive.”

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt also signed a similar measure in his state on the same day.

“When it comes to sports and athletics, girls should compete against girls. Boys should compete against boys. And let’s be very clear: That’s all this bill says,” Stitt said upon signing the bill. It will take effect immediately and applies to female sports teams in both high school and college.

Lastly, Ducey signed Senate Bill 1138, which bars gender reassignment surgery until the age of 18.

The measure, signed by state Sen. Warren Petersen, does not prohibit prescriptions that those under age 18 may be taking to alter the characteristics of their biological sex, including puberty-blocking hormones or any other hormone therapy.

“The reason is simple, and common sense—this is a decision that will dramatically affect the rest of an individual’s life, including the ability of that individual to become a biological parent later in life,” Ducey said of S.B. 1138.

“Distinguishing between an adult and a child in law, as this bill does, is not unique,” the governor added. “Throughout law, children are protected from making irreversible decisions, including buying certain products or participating in activities that can have lifelong health implications. These decisions should be made when an individual reaches adulthood.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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