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Arizona governor signs slate of bills likely to be challenged in court

Besides a proof of citizenship requirement for voters, Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill banning abortion care after 15 weeks and two that directly affect the health and well-being of transgender children.

PHOENIX (CN) — Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed a slate of controversial bills Wednesday that address hot-button conservative issues like election reform, abortion and transgender rights.

The election bill, House Bill 2492, requires all prospective voters in Arizona to present proof of citizenship at registration or within 30 days of registering to vote. 

Ducey, a Republican, says the law will stop noncitizens from voting in Arizona elections.

“Federal law prohibits noncitizens from voting in federal elections,” Ducey said in a statement. “Arizona law prohibits noncitizens from voting for all state and local offices, and requires proof of citizenship. HB 2492 provides clarity to Arizona law on how officials process federal form voter registration applications that lack evidence of citizenship.”

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs criticized Ducey's decision, claiming the law will make it harder to vote and cost taxpayers in the courts. 

“The bill creates new, illegal barriers for voters and will lead to costly litigation,” Hobbs wrote on Twitter. “The governor had an opportunity to stand up for voters, election officials, and taxpayers. He failed.”

The conservative push to require proof of citizenship in voting is a legal battle long fought in the state.

In 2004, Arizona voters passed an initiative to require voters to prove citizenship upon registration. The initiative, Proposition 200, was a challenge to the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. Under the act, voters are only required to affirm their citizenship under the perjury of law.

Nearly a decade later in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 that the act superseded the proposition's ID requirement.

In a letter last week, Pima County Recorder Gabriella Cázares-Kelly asked Ducey to veto the bill, claiming it creates obstacles in voting and violates federal law.

“The bill’s unconstitutionality is clear in that it conflicts with a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that determined an affirmation of citizenship meets the standards of federal law,” Cázares-Kelly wrote.

Ducey also signed Senate Bill 1164, a bill that shortens the time a woman can get abortion care to 15 weeks amid Supreme Court deliberations in overturning Roe v. Wade.

The bill brings felony charges against doctors who perform an abortion after 15 weeks, except in the case of an emergency. Women who receive an abortion after 15 weeks cannot be prosecuted.

Like the election bill, SB 1164 will likely face legal challenges, and the GOP prime culture war legislation is aimed at pushing legal reviews to a conservative-dominated Supreme Court.

This past December, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health that could lead to a landmark ruling on abortion access. The case centers on a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy and challenges the legal precedent of Roe.

Ducey also approved two bills that affect transgender people. The first, Senate Bill 1138, “Arizona’s Children Deserve Help Not Harm Act,” prohibits individuals from receiving gender confirmation surgery until they turn 18. The bill does not ban puberty-blocking hormones or other hormone therapy.

Democrats and lobbyists in legislative sessions argued that medical procedures should be up to the individual and their guardians who go through sophisticated consultations. 

“I oppose this bill that essentially dictates medical care and inserts politics into the exam room and patient-family relationships,” said Dr. Atsuko Koyama, a board-certified pediatric medicine specialist, during committee comments this month. “We don’t need other legislators to dictate medical management, and this is what SB 1138 does. It’s unnecessary.”

Republicans in committees and sessions claimed the regrets from the surgeries, which are irreversible, can lead to higher rates of suicide and depression.

The American Civil Liberties Union has pledged to battle Ducey in court over the law.

The second transgender-focused bill, Senate Bill 1165, will require transgender youths to play sports on teams matching their gender as identified at birth.

Arizona joins Oklahoma, South Dakota, Iowa and Utah who’ve all enacted policies to restrict participation.

The ACLU of Arizona quickly issues a statement appealing to the children affected by the new law.

“First and foremost — to trans kids in Arizona: know that you are loved and you are not alone,” said K.M Bell, campaign strategist for the ACLU of Arizona. “Governor Ducey’s decision to sign this harmful and discriminatory piece of legislation into law is nothing more than a political ploy to score points with extremist lawmakers and hateful groups peddling falsehoods and manufactured outrage. This bill will do nothing more than harm the mental health and physical well-being of youth across Arizona.” 

Ducey said in a statement the bill gives an opportunity for females to have a level playing field in sports. Republicans have pointed to muscle and heart mass discrepancies in some late-transitioned individuals as critical points of debate in passing the bill.

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