By Daniel Trotta
(Reuters) – Democratic Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs on Friday issued an order to protect abortion rights, wielding her executive power to curtail the effects of a restrictive abortion law signed by her Republican predecessor.
Hobbs said on Twitter she ordered all abortion-related prosecutions centralized under the office of Attorney General Kristin Mays, also a Democrat and abortion rights advocate, stripping that authority from county prosecutors, many of them Republicans.
The measure is certain to generate opposition from local prosecutors whose decision-making would be curtailed, and the Republican House speaker told the Arizona Republic newspaper that legislative staff were reviewing the order to determine its legality.
The governor also directed state agencies to refuse aid to any out-of-state investigation regarding abortion services that would be legal in Arizona; to decline extradition requests from other states seeking to prosecute people for abortion; and create an advisory council on how to expand access in Arizona.
The executive orders were issued on the eve of the anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling overturning the right to an abortion.
The June 24, 2022, Dobbs decision struck down the 1972 Roe v. Wade ruling that had largely protected abortion rights in the United States.
That triggered existing laws in some states that would impose restrictions in the event Roe was ever lifted, and prompted other Republican-led states to pass new abortion limits.
In March 2022, in anticipation of the Supreme Court ruling, Arizona’s Republican governor at the time, Doug Ducey, signed a bill banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The measure made exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for rape.
Ducey was legally barred from seeking a third term in November, when Hobbs defeated the Republican nominee, Kari Lake.
Ben Toma, the Republican speaker of the Arizona state House of Representatives, questioned Hobbs’ authority to take over all abortion-related prosecutions.
“At a minimum, this order shows disrespect and contempt for the judiciary,” Toma told the Arizona Republic. “The governor cannot unilaterally divert statutory authority to prosecute criminal cases from Arizona’s 15 county attorneys to the attorney general.”