PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday signed several controversial bills into law targeting transgender youth, abortion and proof of citizenship.
Trans youth restrictions
Arizona joins a dozen other states with limits on sports participation for trans girls and becomes the third state to try and limit health care options for transgender teens. Oklahoma's governor signed a sports ban on Wednesday.
Until two years ago, no state had passed a law regulating gender-designated youth sports. But the issue has become front and center in Republican-led statehouses since Idaho lawmakers passed the nation’s first sports participation law in 2020. That law is now blocked in court, along with another in West Virginia.
Republicans have said blocking transgender athletes from girls' sports teams would protect the integrity of women’s sports, claiming that trans athletes would have an advantage. Ducey echoed that sentiment in his signing statement, saying the bill ensures girls and women can compete “on a level playing field.”
Many point to the transgender collegiate swimmer Lia Thomas, who won an individual title at the NCAA Women’s Division I Swimming and Diving Championship last week.
But there are few trans athletes in Arizona schools. Since 2017, about 16 trans athletes have asked for waivers to play on teams that align with their gender identities out of about 170,000 high school athletes in the state and not all were granted, according to the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
Skyler Morrison, a 13-year-old transgender girl who lives in Phoenix, testified against the legislation and called for Ducey to veto it, tweeted that she was "truly disgusted and terrified for all of my trans family here."
Critics said the legislation dehumanizes trans youth to address an issue that hasn’t been a problem. They said decisions about health care should be left to trans children, their parents and their health care providers.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Center for Lesbian Rights vowed to sue to block the law banning gender-affirming surgery for those under age 18.
“We’re talking about legislating bullying against children who are already struggling just to get by,” Democratic Rep. Kelli Butler said during the House debate on the sports bill last week.
15-week abortion ban
On Wednesday, Arizona Governor Ducey signed legislation that will outlaw abortions after 15 weeks in most cases.
When it goes into effect – abortions won’t be able to be performed after 15 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy, unless it’s a medical emergency.
Providers who violate the law – could end up facing a felony charge. Women would not be charged.
The Arizona abortion legislation mirrors a Mississippi law now being considered by the nation’s high court. The bill explicitly says it does not overrule a state law in place for more than 100 years that would ban abortion outright if the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that enshrined the right to abortion in law.
“In Arizona, we know there is immeasurable value in every life – including preborn life,” Ducey said in a signing letter. “I believe it is each state’s responsibility to protect them.”
Ducey is an abortion opponent who has signed every piece of anti-abortion legislation that has reached his desk since he took office in 2015. He said late last year that he hoped the Supreme Court overturns the Roe decision.
Florida lawmakers passed a similar 15-week abortion ban early this month that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign.
Ducey's signing letter was sent to Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, an abortion-rights supporter who is seeking her party's nomination in November's election to replace Ducey, who is term-limited.
“Today marks a giant step backward in the fight for equality for women across Arizona and across the country,” Hobbs said in a statement. “With Governor Ducey’s signature, our elected leaders have chosen to side with the extremists in their party and turn their backs on the overwhelming majority of Arizonans who support the constitutional right to choose.”
NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion-rights group, said politicians pushing abortion bans are banking on the Supreme Court upholding the Mississippi law and overturning Roe.
“If that happens, it will open the floodgates to a barrage of dangerous legislation that gives politicians more power and control over our lives,” Caroline Mello Roberson, the group's regional director, said in a statement.
Other states are considering similar bans or passing versions of a ban enacted in Texas last year that bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy that the Supreme Court has refused to block.
Proof of citizenship
Ducey also signed into law a bill that enforces only U.S. citizens to be able to vote in Arizona's elections. House Bill 2492 requires those casting a vote in federal elections in Arizona to provide documentary proof of citizenship.
County recorders must also reject state voter registration applications that do not include proof of citizenship.