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Arizona governor says local prosecutors can't bring charges in abortion cases

Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs says local prosecutors are still barred from bringing charges for abortion-related crimes even though the Arizona Supreme Court reinstated a near-total abortion ban.

Hobbs issued an executive order last year that gave all authority over abortion prosecutions to Attorney General Kris Mayes, a Democrat who says her office will not enforce the abortion ban.

“It's my job to make sure that the resources of my office are properly utilized and spent,” Mayes told NPR. “And I also have supervisory authority over the state's 15 county attorneys. And I've made it clear that if any of them attempts to prosecute a doctor or a nurse, a medical professional or a woman under this insane, egregious 1864 abortion ban, that I will step in and I will stop them, or at least attempt to stop them.”

Hobbs said that the executive order is still in effect and she’s confident it could survive potential legal challenges. 

“As I’ve said regarding multiple executive orders I’ve issued, they are not issued willy nilly just because I can,” Hobbs said. “We did thorough research and I am very, very confident in the legal ground that we stand on in this executive order.”

The governor said she hopes the order will provide some comfort to practitioners coming to grips with the state Supreme Court ruling that reinstated a near-total abortion ban in Arizona. 

"They have the executive order to rely on. They have the attorney general's word that she won't prosecute,” Hobbs said. “But they have to make their own choices in terms of what's best for them. And I hope they will continue to provide care. I hope Arizonans can continue to access care. But I absolutely understand why they wouldn't want to.”

Hobbs' statement comes as abortion providers in Arizona navigate the new legal landscape. Planned Parenthood Arizona says it will continue to provide abortion care through 15 weeks of pregnancy into May, but it’s unclear what services will remain available after that point.

Hobbs calls for legislators to repeal 1864 law Friday on 'The View'

Hobbs discuss the ruling on ABC’s ‘The View’ Friday morning. Following the decision, Hobbs emphasized that her executive order shielding abortion patients and doctors would stand, but she said on Friday that isn’t guaranteed.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty and that’s why I immediately called for this ban to be repealed,” said Hobbs. “And the Legislature should do the right thing for Arizonans and repeal this ban.”

Hobbs again called on state lawmakers to follow through with repealing the ban, criticizing the vote to adjourn they took earlier this week.

“They say they have the votes to repeal the ban and yet they voted with the majority to adjourn instead of take that vote,” Hobbs said. “They need to get this done.”

The governor also addressed former president Donald Trump’s influence, who recently commented that the ban goes too far.

“I am pretty tired of cleaning up Donald Trump’s messes in Arizona,” she said. “This is really nothing but political opportunism coming from these folks who wanted this.”

Hobbs added that action on the matter can’t wait until election season to be solved.

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Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.