ELECTIONS

As Arizona courts weigh law, where do Kari Lake and Katie Hobbs stand on abortion and birth control?

Katie Hobbs and Kari Lake at a forum hosted by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 9, 2022, in Phoenix.
Stacey Barchenger
Arizona Republic

The two candidates running for Arizona governor have starkly opposing views on abortion, a top-of-mind issue for many voters that Democrats especially hope will mobilize supporters to turn out in November.

Democrat Katie Hobbs wants to repeal a 158-year-old law that bans abortions except when a woman's life is at risk. Hobbs has repeatedly avoided questions about what, if any, restrictions she believes should be placed on abortion access in the state.

Republican Kari Lake, meanwhile, has supported that law, first passed in 1864 and that includes prison time for abortion providers, and called abortion "horrifying." She did not respond to questions clarifying conflicting statements about which laws she'd prefer to see in effect.

Abortion access, once protected by federal court rulings, was pitched into uncertainty in June, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned nearly 50-year-old precedent in the case Roe. v. Wade.

The ruling left it up to states to set abortion policy, leaving a patchwork across the nation and amplifying the power of governors to enact, or stand in the way of, policy changes sought by legislatures. Many Democratic-led states have put rights to abortion in law, and many Republican ones whittled away at rights established in Roe. 

Arizona's next governor will lead the state at a time when swing voters rank abortion as a top issue, according to a poll conducted for The Arizona Republic in September, and as abortion access is far from certain.

On Friday, a Pima County judge rejected a request to put a near-total ban on the procedure in the state on hold while the courts sort out what the law is in Arizona.

Arizonans will receive mail-in ballots for the Nov. 8 general election starting in mid-October, choosing their candidate to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who is term limited.

Here's where both candidates — who declined interview requests, and have sought to paint their opponent as extreme — stand on the issue of abortion, and birth control access.

Action sought:Brnovich, abortion advocates want special session of Legislature to address abortion laws

Democrat Katie Hobbs' views on abortion

Hobbs, Arizona's secretary of state and a former lawmaker, opposes the 1864 law and a 2022 law banning abortions after 15 weeks, which are both on the books in Arizona. Courts have yet to reconcile which law prevails.

She has called the laws "extreme measures" that will only drive women to seek unsafe alternatives.

Hobbs said, if elected, she will call the Legislature into a special session to overturn the law banning abortions except to save the life of the woman.

"And, if out-of-touch legislators will not join me in standing with the vast majority of Arizonans and restore reproductive freedoms, I will pursue a ballot measure, so that voters can directly make their voices heard on this critical issue," she said in a statement.

Hobbs often says abortion is "a deeply personal decision and should be made between a woman and her doctor, not the government or politicians, period." She has repeatedly declined to directly answer questions about what restrictions she would support, including for this article.

As governor, she has vowed to veto any bills that restrict access to birth control, abortion and family planning services.

She wants to expand Medicaid coverage for birth control to include more families, and use state dollars to match federal funds to expand family planning services, contraception education, and breast and cervical cancer testing for lower-income Arizonans. Those federal funds, allocated under a program called Title X, were about $6 million in the last fiscal year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Republican Kari Lake's views on abortion

Lake's spokesman, Ross Trumble, told The Republic in June that Lake "is pro-life but supports exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother."

Still, Lake has called the 1864 law, which does not include exceptions for rape or incest, a "great law," and said the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade was "the right thing." Last year, after Texas enacted a ban on abortion after six weeks, Lake called on the Arizona Legislature to follow suit, pledging to sign such a bill in a "heartbeat."

Lake, a former television news anchor, did not respond to a list of eight questions emailed to her campaign for this article. Trumble did not respond to a voicemail.

Lake has said she would "very much support" banning abortion pills, which she said she believed were dangerous if taken without supervision.

Those pills are prescribed, and were used in just over half of the 13,000 abortions obtained by Arizona women in 2020, the latest year of state data available. State law requires doctors to report when there is a complication of an abortion. About 30 such reports were filed in 2020.

Lake has said she will put more resources into "helping pregnant women choose life-saving options including adoption, parental support and guidance, and neo-natal treatment.” She wants to make "all common forms of birth control available over-the-counter" and provide financial assistance to people who cannot pay for it.

The campaign did not respond to questions about how much those plans would cost the state. Nor did it respond to a question to clarify her campaign pledge that "fathers must also be held accountable and directed to support women they have impregnated throughout their pregnancy.”

Reach reporter Stacey Barchenger at stacey.barchenger@arizonarepublic.com or 480-416-5669. Follow her on Twitter @sbarchenger.