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Arizona Gov. Ducey signs laws to restrict trans athletes, surgeries, abortions

Arizona Gov. Ducey signs laws to restrict trans athletes, surgeries, abortions
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law three bills banning transgender athletes from competing in girls' sports, transgender reassignment surgeries and abortions after 15 weeks. File Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo

March 30 (UPI) -- Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday signed into law a trio of controversial bills to ban transgender girls from competing in women's sports, minors from undergoing gender reassignment surgery and abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The Republican governor announced he signed the three bills in a letter to Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs in which he described the legislation as "common sense."

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Ducey enacted the laws despite strong push back from LGBTQ and healthcare advocates.

"A vast majority of Arizonans believe in the right to abortion and want to ensure trans youth have every opportunity to thrive," Darrell Hill, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, said in a statement. "The legislators who supported these bills know that their transphobic, anti-choice agenda is misaligned with the will of their constituents."

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The legislation were passed by Arizona legislators last week with Senate Bill 1138 banning gender transition procedures for anyone under the age of 18, even with parental consent, while threatening medical professionals with sanctions for referring such medical procedures to a minor.

S.B. 1165 prohibits male-born transgender athletes from competing in public or private school sports designated for girls.

And S.B. 1164 bars medical professionals from knowingly performing an abortion on a pregnant person after 15 weeks of fetus gestation under threat of felony charges without exception for pregnancies the result of incest or rape.

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Ducey, in his letter, said the legislation concerning transgender youth are "common-sense and narrowly targeted" to "protect participation and fairness for female athletes and to ensure that individuals undergoing gender reassignment surgery are of adult age."

The bills, he said, ensure that "transgender individuals continue to receive the same dignity, respect and kindness as every individual in our society."

Terry Schilling, president of American Principles Project, a conservative think tank, commended Ducey for enacting these two bills.

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"While there is much more that must be done to combat the left's radical agenda, this is an important start, and we urge other states without such laws to pass them as soon as possible," he said in a statement.

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Opponents, however, quickly condemned Ducey's decision to not veto the legislation with the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ advocacy group in the United States, saying any harm minors incur because of these bills belong to the governor and lawmakers who passed them.

"Gov. Ducey has chosen discrimination over protecting the well-being of vulnerable children," Cathryn Oakley, HRC's state legislative director and senior counsel, said in a statement. "This isn't leadership, it's cowardice. The Human Rights Campaign strongly condemns his actions and won't stop fighting for trans kids across the nation."

Kathy Hoffman, the state's Democratic superintendent of Public Instruction, also accused Ducey of siding with "extremism" and injecting "politics into our schools" with signing the bills she described as "hateful."

"How many kids will be harmed because of this legislations? How many kids will suffer until a future, more tolerant legislature rights theres wrongs?" she asked via Twitter. "I am deeply disappointed in this decision, and my heart breaks for the families and kids who will suffer because of these laws."

The American Civil Liberties Union responded with saying it will take Ducey to court.

"The government can't violate our right without a fight, it tweeted.

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The abortion bill also came under quick attack, with healthcare advocates stating it will not only harm Arizonans but disproportionally harm lower-income Arizonans and minorities.

"Many of our clients must already travel to reach care, take time off of work at their own cost and arrange childcare. These are often insurmountable burdens because they add to the financial, logistical and legal obstacles faced by abortion seekers in the state," said Brianna Gordon from the Tucson Abortion Support Collective. "We don't need thoughts and prayers -- we need these lawmakers to take the boot off our necks."

The laws were signed as Republican-controlled states seeks to enact similar legislation.

According to HRC, 2021 was a record year for legislators to file bills targeting transgender people with this year on track to surpass that with 320 already under considered by states. Seventy of those bills concern banning trans youth from school sports.

The Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization focused on reproductive health and rights, said 71 state bills have been introduced this year to ban all or most abortions.

Last week, two Republican governors vetoed similar bills to Arizona's ban on trans youth from girls' sports.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox separately spiked their states' legislation on the grounds that they are essentially flawed.

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Meanwhile, an abortion bill similar that of Arizona but enacted by Florida is currently before the Supreme Court.

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