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KJZZ's Friday NewsCap: Abortion in Arizona is far from a settled matter

KJZZ’s Friday NewsCap revisits some of the biggest stories of the week from Arizona and beyond.

Doug Cole of HighGround and former state lawmaker Jen Longdon joined The Show to talk about Gov. Katie Hobbs signing the bill to repeal Arizona’s 1864 abortion law, a new border and immigration measure that could be sent to November’s ballot and more.

CONVERSATION HIGHLIGHTS

MARK BRODIE: So Jen, let me start with you, Gov. Hobbs just yesterday signed the repeal of Arizona's 1864 abortion law. You were in the Legislature for many of those years where the bill was introduced, not given a hearing. That of course happened this year up until the state Supreme Court made its ruling. I'm curious, like, what, what goes through your mind watching Gov. Hobbs sign this repeal into law?

JENNIFER LONGDON: I'm relieved. I think that this is, this has been a very important step for women, for their body autonomy and for, modern day health care overall. So I'm glad it's done.

BRODIE: Obviously, this is not the end of the story. We know that the there could be a period where the 1864 law goes into effect. There's of course a ballot measure that we're going to talk abou.t Doug, where like, politically, this is of course a political segment, so, you know, this is sort of the, the focus for, for this, even though it's a very, you know, personal and, and important issue for many, many people. Politically, like given where we are right now, still several months away from the election. But like how are things shaping up on this particular issue?

DOUG COLE: Well, I think you need to, to actually open an, an Excel spreadsheet and, and figure out all the possible scenarios and dates and, and such. What we do know now is the bill of what the governor signed yesterday will not come into effect until 90 days after the Legislature adjourns for the year, which is called sine die. So we have that and that's, and then that's the, the repeal of, of, of the 1864 law.

What we also have going is the attorney general and other parties such as Planned Parenthood going back to the, the Arizona Supreme Court asking for an extension of when they issue their mandate. So we had Planned Parenthood come in yesterday and filing a lawsuit asking the Supreme Court not to issue the mandate till 90 days after the Legislature adjourns. And they, they reference back to their ruling in early April and saying, look, you relied on, on the, on what the Legislature intended to do. Now, they have it intended to just to get rid of, rid of the 1864 law. So they're throwing their logic right back back at them.

Additionally, the attorney general has filed, has filed another motion asking for another delay of 90 days so that she can decide whether or not she's going to petition some, some, some conflicting constitutional issues between an, an earlier Supreme Court ruling on personhood, on a personhood case, whether that's right to go back to the Supreme Court, to give her time to prepare the case. So the Supreme Court's already scheduled dates that the various parties have to respond, which is next week. So we'll see how that plays out.

So, yeah, there could be, this could, this, we could be under the 15-week [law], which we, which is where we are right now, all the way to Dec. 2, which is when, the, the, the canvas would happen after the November election. And if the, the citizens initiative is passed by voters, then on Dec. 2, then that's the date that comes into effect. So, I mean, there's all these dates and all these scenarios. We'll just have to see how this plays out.

BRODIE: Well, let me get my calendar out to mark some of these days.

COLE: Exactly.

LONGDON: There, there could be a period of time where there is no legal access to abortion in the state of Arizona, in spite of what happened at the Legislature and the governor signing this bill. I would hope that that wouldn't happen. And if we end up in a position where we're under the 15-week abortion ban, and most abortions do happen before 15 weeks. But if we're in that, if we're governed by that law, there is no exception for rape or incest. So a woman at 15.5 weeks, a person seeking an abortion at 16 weeks or beyond, for whatever reason would be barred from doing that in the state unless the, the initiative is passed.

BRODIE: Jen there, we heard from the organizers of the citizens initiative that after the Supreme Court issued its ruling that donations and signatures really spiked. You know, people, it was sort of a renewed interest in this issue now that the, the 1864 law has been repealed, it hasn't gone into effect yet, as, as we've discussed. Does that affect the momentum at all for that initiative, do you think?

LONGDON: I don't think it affects it for the people, you know, who are running it, who are deeply involved in it. But I think it can create some confusion for the average voter. They've heard that the repeal has happened, and they don't understand what the initiative is going to do. And if the majority has their way, they'll add additional initiatives through the HCRSCR process, the continuing resolution to move something directly to the ballot from the Legislature. And if they do that, they can really muddy the waters on this to a point that I'd be concerned that Arizonans just choose not to do anything at all.

COLE: Yeah, I'd, I'd like to point out that I, I believe that, for all the reasons I just explained earlier about all the, all the various timings and what's going to happen here, that this actually plays into the proponents of, of the citizens initiative because that's going to be a constitutional referral of constitutional proposition on the ballot. And since it'll be in the constitution, then that's that this is settled. This is settled, it cannot be changed. And I think that that all this uncertainty going on right now plays into that narrative.

BRODIE: So is it helpful for, for maybe Democratic candidates? Is it helpful for proponents of the initiative to maybe, not suggesting they're doing this intentionally, but to keep the sort of this state of limbo going as long as they can?

COLE: Well, I, you know, I think, I think that many, such as my colleague sitting here in the studio with me, are are looking to the short term and, and looking to protect the health of, of those women that need this type of care during, during that period of time. But I, you know, this, this still being on the burner. OK. A lot, lot of the air came out of the balloon. A little bit of the air came out of the balloon yesterday, but it's still a front and center issue such as immigration. It will be.

Now to, to what Jen said earlier about maybe the Legislature referring an SCR or an HCR to kind of muddle the ballot up a bit. What I saw on Wednesday in, in the Senate, I don't know how the Senate gets to 16 to get that across the finish line. You had Sen. [Jake] Hoffman, Sen. [Anthony] Kern, Sen. [Wendy] Rogers, Sen. [Dave] Farnsworth, that's four right there, saying that they don't, they don't like the current 15-week ban, didn't vote for it. And even Sen. Rogers said, well, you know, 1864 looks really good to me in 2024. I just don't know how you get any of those four individuals to vote for anything that, that would allow for any type of abortion access.

BRODIE: Yeah, I, I think, and Jen, we, we saw the House rules coming in, I think it was in the House, approve, introducing up to three measures, but we've not seen any actual language yet. Does that give you any kind of indication that maybe there's some kind of difficulty in forming a consensus on something that can get the votes to put it on the ballot?

LONGDON: Well, as a person who wants to see access to abortion. I, I'm happy that they have confusion and they can't figure out what they want to do. But, the cynic in me believes it'd be possible for the Republican majority to decide again to go back to a law that would outlaw abortion overall completely and put that on the ballot and then we would definitely have the binary choice. I hope we don't get there. I think that that would definitely fuel the folks, the majority of Arizonans who believe that there should be access to abortion.

BRODIE: Jen, I want to ask you about a couple of your former colleagues, Reps. Analise Ortiz and Oscar de Los Santos. They had a, an ethics complaint filed against them for, I guess, for their behavior in the House, after one of the, the votes that did not lead to repealing the 1864 law. They are saying they did nothing wrong. The, the folks, the representatives who filed the complaint are basically accusing them of bad behavior, and I think they maybe use the word insurrection in their, in their complaint as well.

LONGDON: I don't think that word means what they think it means.

BRODIE: I mean, this is obviously a very charged issue for a lot of people and has been, we've, we've seen it during debate in the Legislature. Do you expect this complaint to amount to anything?

LONGDON: In the end, it won't. Well, it won't amount to an expulsion because that takes 40 votes in the House and 20 votes in the Senate. And you're not going to get there. Could it come to a censure? Perhaps. And look, I get the passion but rules of decorum on the House floor exist for a reason and I was disappointed to see them broken. I'm disappointed that leadership didn't, didn't do a better job of controlling the caucus. And rather than mounting an organized call for division at that moment, you know, these young elected, these new electeds led a cry for shame instead. So they missed the efficacy they were supposed to have had on the floor. But I'd like to turn it back around to my colleagues on my side of the aisle. And I think part of this is because we sit, you know, with our caucuses. When everyone was intermingled, I don't think you would have seen this.

But I would like to reverse it and say to to the friends in my caucus, if the scenario was that I had managed to get a gun bill over the finish line. And Republican members had come over and, and stood over my desk screaming at me, putting cameras in my face, what would they do? And would they have filed that ethics complaint? And I believe they would have. Decorum exists so that we can have tough discussions about tough issues without literally beating each other up. And that's important and when decorum is broken, we can't do the work of the people.

BRODIE: Yeah. Doug, I mean, do you, obviously there's a lot of passionate discussion both during and after the those floor sessions. Is this a significant breach, do you think what, what Reps. Ortiz and De Los Santos did?

COLE: Well, I think we've seen, you know, I, I used to work for the speaker, back in the late '90s, and I, and I, I think I agree with Jen that, that intermingling the seating helps. It, it, that we have moved away from that in both chambers. Now, they literally sit on either side of the aisle. And so that, that's a shame.

But I, but I have seen in, in my time down there and, and this is my 30th, 34th year, I think, in session. I've seen the decorum slowly being eroded away, and I think it's reflective of what's going on in the country as a whole. But, but I do think that, that, that was, that instance was over the top. It didn't need to happen. There are rules in place they could have used, as Jen, Jen pointed out and, you know, yeah, I might, I'll tell you what this week, my hat, my hat goes off to Sen. [Warren] Petersen.

He gave vote explanations on Wednesday. He, he just threw out the clock. And let ...

BRODIE: Yes, some of them went quite a long time.

COLE: Yeah, 20, 25 minutes and let everybody speak, and I think that was the right thing to do.

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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Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.