AZ Gov. Hobbs Bars Counties From Prosecuting Abortion-Related Crimes

  • Gov. Katie Hobbs signed an order blocking county attorneys from prosecuting abortion-related cases.
  • Hobbs has shifted the authority of such cases to the Arizona attorney general’s office.
  • Local Republican prosecutors in the state have decried the move, with some mulling legal action.

Gov. Katie Hobbs of Arizona on Friday signed an executive order that bars local prosecutors from pursuing abortion-related crimes, a move that seeks to fortify abortion rights in the politically-competitive swing state.

In the executive order, the Democratic governor has stripped the authority of prosecutors and subsequently shifted powers to the state’s attorney general, Democrat Kris Mayes. The governor’s office contends that centralizing the prosecutorial authority with the attorney general would prevent one jurisdiction from interpreting the law in ways that might be vastly different from that of another locality.

“I signed an Executive Order protecting Arizonans’ reproductive freedom,” Hobbs tweeted on Friday. “I will not allow extreme and out-of-touch politicians to get in the way of the fundamental rights of Arizonans.”

“I have directed state agencies to not assist in any investigations relating to providing, assisting, seeking or obtaining reproductive health care that would be legal in Arizona,” she continued. “Moving forward, Arizona will decline extradition requests from other states seeking to prosecute individuals who provide, assist, seek or receive abortion services legal in Arizona.”

Hobbs’ move was praised by abortion-rights activists and groups, including Planned Parenthood of Arizona.

After the US Supreme Court last June overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, the issue of abortion has returned to the states, with has led to a hodgepodge of strict rules and bans that have been put into place in Republican-heavy states — while many Democratic-leaning states have put into place laws that maintain access to abortion services.

However, several Republican prosecutors in Arizona have criticized the move while they continue to review the document, with some floating the possibility of a lawsuit to block the governor’s order.

“Is she going to say I can’t prosecute drugs or homicide cases?” Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer told The New York Times. “For the governor to take that authority from me and say, ‘We’re going to outsource that to the big city’ — that’s highly problematic.”

While speaking with The Times, Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell blasted Hobbs’ move as “outrageous.”

The Arizona legislature is still controlled by Republicans, with Hobbs serving as a check on any conservative legislation that comes to her desk. During Hobbs’ gubernatorial campaign last year, she vowed to protect abortion rights, so the order represents one of her most realistic opportunities to make good on that promise, given the current political makeup of the state.

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