On the eve of the first anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) on Friday signed an executive order aimed at preventing the criminalization of abortion in her state.

The order takes several steps to stop the state from prosecuting individuals seeking or assisting with abortions. It bans the extradition of individuals involved in abortion-related cases in other states; bars Arizona’s state agencies from being involved in abortion-related investigations; and establishes an advisory council to make recommendations for expanding access to sexual and reproductive health care.

Hobbs’s order effectively bars Arizona’s county attorneys from prosecuting abortion-related crimes by redirecting criminal prosecution duties for all pending and future abortion-related cases to the state’s attorney general — an elected position held by Kris Mayes, a Democrat.

“I made a promise to Arizonans that I would do everything in my power to protect reproductive freedom, and this Executive Order reflects that promise,” Hobbs said in a statement. “I will not allow extreme and out of touch politicians to get in the way of the fundamental right Arizonans have to make decisions about their own bodies and futures. I will continue to fight to expand access to safe and legal abortion in any way that I can.”

I signed an Executive Order protecting Arizonans’ reproductive freedom. I will not allow extreme and out of touch politicians to get in the way of the fundamental rights of Arizonans. My Executive Order does four things to the full extent of my authority: pic.twitter.com/2digbGB6EM

— Governor Katie Hobbs (@GovernorHobbs) June 23, 2023

Mayes, who campaigned on abortion rights, said in a statement that the executive order “provides important protections in Arizona on [the issue of abortion] — and it underscores our shared commitment to proactively defend the fundamental rights of individuals and ensure access to reproductive health care in Arizona.”

Arizona has a 15-week abortion ban in place that has exceptions for endangerment of the life of the mother or for medical emergencies. In October, a judge temporarily blocked enforcement of the state’s near-total abortion ban, but it could be reinstated by future court decisions.

Brittany Fonteno, Planned Parenthood Arizona’s president and CEO, praised the governor’s action, saying in a statement that it “will help ease the fear and uncertainty that swept through Arizona in the year since Roe was overturned, and protect all those seeking and providing necessary health care.” And NARAL Pro-Choice America Southwest Regional Director Caroline Mello Roberson also said the order will protect “the reproductive freedom of Arizonans from unnecessary political interference.”

Republicans control both chambers of the Arizona state legislature. On Friday, many Arizona Republican lawmakers were already pushing back on the order and questioning its legality.

“We are thoroughly reviewing the executive order to determine its legality. At a minimum, this order shows disrespect and contempt for the judiciary. Arizona’s abortion laws are still in litigation in light of the Supreme Court’s historic Dobbs ruling,” Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma said in a statement. Toma also questioned whether the governor had the authority to divert the county attorneys’ discretion on prosecuting criminal cases.

Senate President Warren Petersen suggested that Hobbs “is setting a dangerous precedent by pulling a PR stunt to appeal to special interest groups and attempting to usurp law enforcement.” And State Sen. Jake Hoffman claimed the governor’s action is “a gross, unconstitutional overreach.”

Kristi Hamrick, the vice president of media and policy for the antiabortion group Students for Life Action, also argued that the state attorney general “likely doesn’t have authority unilaterally” to oversee abortion-related criminal cases.

After fending off baseless claims of election fraud in Arizona during her time as secretary of state — and gaining a larger national profile because of it — Hobbs made reproductive freedoms a pillar of her successful gubernatorial campaign in 2022.

Since taking office, Hobbs has set a record for the number of vetoes in the state in a single legislative session. Such vetoes included striking down a bill requiring the state’s board of investment to identify companies that give money to groups that “promote, facilitate or advocate for abortions for minors” and overriding a bill that critics said could help codify fetal personhood.

The order comes a day after Hobbs announced her support for legislation aimed at protecting access to contraception in the state. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision, which overturned the fundamental right to abortion, abortion rights advocates have feared that restricting access to contraception could be next.

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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