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Díaz and Kwok: Would a 15-week abortion ban on the ballot be good for Arizona voters?

What’s next for abortion rights in Arizona is still up in the air weeks after the state Supreme Court upheld a territorial-era near-total ban on abortion.

Last week at the state Legislature, a few Republicans in the House joined Democrats to repeal that 1864 law. Now Republican lawmakers are considering their options: They could refer several ballot measures to the ballot: from a 6-week ban to a 15-week ban, giving voters more options and threatening to dilute the vote for the Arizona for Abortion Access initiative that’s gathering signatures now.

That initiative would create a ban on abortions after fetal viability, about 24 weeks.

Arizona Republic columnist Abe Kwok recently wrote that giving voters more options is the only way to ensure constituents are represented on this issue.

Kwok joined The Show along with Editorial Page Editor Elvia Diaz to talk more about it.

Full interview

LAUREN GILGER: Abe, let’s start with you on this and tell us why you think that Arizonans should have at least another option on the ballot when it comes to what abortion rights should look like going forward? More than just this Arizona for Abortion Access initiative.

ABE KWOK: So opinion polls as recently as last summer indicate that there are a number of Arizonans who favor some restrictions on abortions and the option to give owners the ultimate say is you want to give them something other than a very progressive — in many ways even more expansive than what Roe v Wade permitted. And I think the cleanest way is just to provide a 15-week option, for Arizonans to consider alongside the more progressive Abortion Access initiative that the progressives are pursuing.

GILGER: Elvia, let me throw this to you. I mean, do you think that would represent what voters want, giving them a binary choice like that? Or would it, as many have argued, dilute the vote for the citizens initiative that has gathered, I think more than 500,000 signatures already?

ELVIA DÍAZ: Well, to begin with, Lauren, I don’t think the Arizona lawmakers really have Arizona’s best interest in mind when they are discussing abortion. Republicans have proven that they do want the 1864 law. And ultimately, sending the 15 week ban to the ballot is also by Republicans who have done nothing but restrict rights, in this case, for women.

So no, I do not think it’s a true choice. And I actually believe if they send anything to the ballot, it will not be to dilute votes from the more progressive initiative, but rather to make sure that both fail or that any abortion rights fail. So no, I do not trust the Republicans in the Legislature to send real choices to voters.

KWOK: … There are going to be a number of Arizonans who see any referral by Republicans as a political ploy. But I think Arizonans are paying attention to abortion. And if you have a clear two-option choice at the ballot, I don’t think they’ll be confused. I’m not going to assign motivation, and I think a number of Arizonans will not assign motivation, and they will just vote their conscience.

The 15-week ban might still be defeated, and the more progressive abortion rights initiative would still pass. But I think the point is, let this be the choice of voters, and let them have the final say. Because whatever decision that they approve will be pretty much enshrined by the Voter Protection Act. There’s no way that either Republicans or Democrats can go against voter intent after any initiative passes. That’s the point.

GILGER: Right, right. You point this out in your column, Abe, that this is also about what happens after and this idea that if it is a voter approved measure, it can’t really be changed by lawmakers in the future. Do you think that’s a good thing, or does it sort of preclude lawmakers from fixing things in the future or adjusting things?

KWOK: That’s a long debate about the Voter Protection Act and whether it is ultimately a good thing. And number one, that is what’s in place. And number two, I do think it’s a good thing.

Roe v. Wade no longer exists, but the practice has been in place for nearly five decades. I think most Americans, most Arizonans know where they stand on the issue. And let them have a go at it. And if they need to have a second vote somewhere down the line, either to further restrict it or further liberalize it, expand it, they still have that option down the line.

GILGER: Elvia, I want to turn back to you and something you said earlier about motivations here. You said that you think that if there are more than one abortion measure on the ballot, it will not be that one wins over the other but that all of them will fail. Why do you think that is?

DÍAZ: Well, motivation is key here, with all due respect to my colleague here, and we have seen it time and again. You know what? I would have had a different mindset a few weeks ago. But what has happened in the state Legislature, where Arizona Republicans clearly want to keep the 1864 law on the books. I mean, they have made it very clear from the leadership down that that’s what they want.

So they have no intentions of changing that. The House was able to vote because only about two Republicans joined (Democrats) who are facing a very competitive election. So clearly they do not want to send choices to voters. They want to impose their will on Arizonans, as they have.

The 15 week-ban is an imposition from the Arizona Republicans. Remember that this was signed in preparation for getting rid of Roe v. Wade. So motivation is important here.

And ultimately, Lauren, if we truly talk about giving voters choices, it’s up to people to decide what to do. Having the more progressive one on the books — up to 24 weeks — it doesn’t mean that people should wait 24 weeks to have an abortion, right? No. It is a very personal decision. That’s a choice. So women should have the choice to make that personal decision, not some lawmakers.

KJZZ’s The Show transcripts are created on deadline. This text may not be in its final form. The authoritative record of KJZZ’s programming is the audio record.

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.