PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs on Friday signed a sweeping executive order to protect anyone involved with a legally obtained abortion from prosecution.
The order bans local prosecutors from bringing abortion-related charges and state agencies from assisting in any criminal investigations without a court order. In addition, Arizona will not honor any extradition requests for people wanted for assisting, providing or seeking an abortion.
Only Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, a Democrat, will be able to oversee abortion-related prosecutions.
“I will not allow extreme and out of touch politicians to get in the way of the fundamental right Arizonans have to make decisions about their own bodies and futures,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “I will continue to fight to expand access to safe and legal abortion in any way that I can.”
Under the order, Hobbs will also create a special council to make recommendations on how to expand access to sexual and reproductive health care.
Abortions are currently allowed in Arizona in the first 15 weeks of pregnancy under a 2022 law. Last year, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that abortion doctors cannot be prosecuted under a law dating back to 1864 that criminalizes nearly all abortions. That pre-statehood law was already barred from being enforced for decades because of Roe v. Wade.
Planned Parenthood Arizona President and CEO Brittany Fonteno called Hobbs’ action a “promising and welcome path.”
“This executive order will help ease the fear and uncertainty that swept through Arizona in the year since Roe was overturned, and protect all those seeking and providing necessary health care,” Fonteno said.
Cathi Herrod, president of the socially conservative Center for Arizona Policy, accused the governor of overreaching.
“In her zeal for abortion, Gov. Hobbs has exceeded her authority as governor,” Herrod said in a statement. “The law does not allow her to strip county attorneys of their clear enforcement authority as granted in various Arizona laws.”
Hobbs’ action comes at the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, which had legalized abortion nationally.
Reproductive freedom has been a focus for Hobbs in recent days. On Thursday, she announced her support for state legislation codifying access to contraception. A Democratic lawmaker will introduce it in January. But the bill is a long shot in a Republican-controlled state Legislature.