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Published on April 17, 2024
Leaked Document Reveals Arizona House GOP's Plans to Curb Abortion Rights InitiativeSource: Gage Skidmore, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In an unexpected turn of events, House Republicans in Arizona have been caught off the foot with a far-reaching scheme to counter a voter initiative promoting abortion rights. According to a leaked 24-page PowerPoint presentation intended for House Republicans but mistakenly shared with the entire House, there's a devised strategy to undermine the Arizona initiative aiming to preserve abortion rights. The document, which was leaked on Monday and then quickly spread across the state, outlines several counterproposals, including measures that could severely limit abortion access, as per documents obtained by 12 News.

The Arizona Supreme Court's ruling last week to uphold a Civil War-era ban has prompted Republican lawmakers to pivot strategy away from repeal efforts. In favor of concocting a plan, several titles for competing proposals were deliberated, such as the "Protecting Pregnant Women and Safe Abortions Act," aimed at swaying public opinion towards their proposed amendments. The leaked plans divulge strategies that, under the guise of complementing the Arizona Abortion Access Act, would ultimately enshrine further abortion restrictions into the state's constitution, as revealed by Arizona Mirror.

One such proposal debated in a private video call by House Republicans, which was held on Monday, seeks to limit abortions to either 15 or six weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions so narrow they provoke a question of actual choice. These details from the leaked presentation suggest the Republican plan to introduce ballot measures with the potential of confusing voters and splitting the vote, thus weakening the progressive initiative that has already garnered enough signatures to reach the fall ballot. Requirements such as informed consent and parental consent for minors, along with the prohibition of abortions based on genetic abnormalities, are measures they consider 'complementing' the voter-led initiative.

The strategies laid out in the slides touted advantages like "puts Democrats in a defensive position" and boasted about maneuvering to ensure voters read the Legislature's referral first on the ballot. In the midst of this scramble, the narrative Republicans desired to propagate was clear: "Republicans have a plan!" as reported by the presentation. Rep. David Cook, acknowledging the recent presentation, told Arizona Mirror, "We’re just digesting it now right, and we’re letting it sink in and we’re considering our options as a caucus,."

Yet, the implementation of these measures might not be as straightforward as the Republicans would have hoped. Their one-seat majorities in both the House and the Senate mean securing a consensus among their own ranks is critical. But the reaction from within the party itself has ranged from rebellion among swing-district Republicans to outright refusal from elements of the far-right. Rep. Jake Hoffman of the Freedom Caucus vehemently opposed any compromise on the abortion issue, stating in a release, "the calculation cannot be to compromise a deeply held core conviction that life is sacred in an attempt to pacify the insatiable thirst for death by Democrats," according to the Arizona Mirror.

Amidst this political turmoil, Arizona for Abortion Access, the campaign behind the progressive initiative, has expressed concern over the leaked plans, labeling them as a "dishonest attempt" by politicians to subvert voters' rights. In a pointed statement, they described the efforts as creating chaos and lying to voters. As it stands, the final decision on these proposals will ultimately rest in the hands of Arizona voters come November.