Arizona GOP strategy document implores party to show 'Republicans have a plan' on abortion

PHOENIX — Republican state legislators in Arizona are considering pushing alternative ballot measures competing with a proposed constitutional amendment expanding abortion rights in the state, according to a PowerPoint presentation obtained by NBC News, as the GOP faces the fallout from a state Supreme Court ruling upholding a near-total abortion ban.

The strategy document includes a slide titled: “PHASE 2: SEND VOTERS TWO OTHER OPTIONS THAT CONFLICT WITH AAA INITIATIVE,” in reference to the Arizona for Abortion Access ballot measure, which aims to enshrine abortion rights into the state’s constitution through fetal viability and vastly expand the scope for exceptions.

The document outlines a plan to give the voters alternatives to the Arizona for Abortion Access ballot measure, presenting options for other constitutional amendments like the “15-week Reproductive Care and Abortion Act and Heartbeat Protection Act.”

And the document also discusses presenting voters with an option for a limit on abortions after 15 weeks that would actually be a stricter ban.

“Could scale back 15-week law to 14-week law,” reads the presentation. “In reality, a 14-week law disguised as a 15-week law because it would only allow abortion until the beginning of the 15th week,” it goes on.

The document also acknowledges that both of those time frames represent an “arbitrary number of weeks” of the pregnancy and that it would be considered a disadvantage to move a measure that “solidifies” that number in the state constitution.

The Arizona state Legislature is slated to reconvene on Wednesday as pressure mounts from Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, to repeal Arizona’s 1864 abortion ban.

State House Speaker Ben Toma said in a statement responding to the presentation: “The document presents ideas drafted for internal discussion and consideration within the caucus. I’ve publicly stated that we are looking at options to address this subject, and this is simply part of that.”

Dawn Penich, spokesperson for Arizona for Abortion Access, the coalition of reproductive rights organizations including the ACLU of Arizona and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, said that the document “shows yet again why Arizonans can’t leave our most basic and personal rights in the hands of politicians in the state legislature.

The Republican PowerPoint also outlines a plan to “constitutionalize existing laws,” on the books in Arizona in response to the debate over abortion policy. That includes “forbidding anyone who is not a licensed physician from performing an abortion,” and outlawing “discriminatory abortions” or “prohibiting physicians from performing an abortion when a physician knows the purpose is based on genetic abnormality or race or gender.”

The purpose of putting forward those proposals, according to the document: “Changes narrative — Republicans have a plan!” It says the GOP needs to give voters “give voters something other than the extreme abortion-on- demand AAA Initiative” to choose in November. The 24-week ballot measure has gotten a surge of attention in the last week after the state Supreme Court ruled that Arizona’s near-total ban dating from 1864 was enforceable.

The PowerPoint presentation ends with a slide that includes a meme of late-night television host Seth Meyers and the text, “BOOM. EASY AS THAT.”

In Arizona, a proposed constitutional amendment can make its way onto the ballot via a citizen-initiated process that relies on the collection of signatures or via a referral by the state legislature.

The measure seeking to enshrine abortion access in the state constitution is going the petition signature route, while the proposals discussed in the Republican strategy document would be referred to the ballot by the GOP-controlled legislature.

The document appears to lay out several contingencies.

For example, the “Phase 1” options appear to describe a situation in which Republican lawmakers would refer a proposed amendment that protects legislators’ authority to “enact laws rationally related to promoting and preserving life and to protecting the health and safety of pregnant women.”

The document describes this approach as “complimentary (not conflicting)” to the abortion-rights proposed amendment — and that if both appeared and passed in November, “courts would” be forced to “consider both when interpreting the constitutional right to abortion.”

The document also advises Republican lawmakers to choose titles for their “Phase 1″ measures along the lines of “Protecting Pregnant Women and Safe Abortions Act,” the “Arizona Abortion and Reproductive Care Act” and the “Arizona Abortion Protection Act.”

Meanwhile, the document also lays out an “ALTERNATIVE TO PHASE 2,” under which lawmakers would refer a “conditional enactment” of the “Phase 2 proposal.” Under this approach, the “Phase 2” proposal “does not become effective unless the Arizona Abortion Access Act is adopted” during the 2024 general election.

It was not immediately clear from the document whether the “Phase 2” approach, to refer ballot measures that “conflict” with the abortion-rights proposal. would be considered concurrently or alternatively to “Phase 1.”

However, the document features a proposed timeline that states there are “REASONS TO PROCEED WITH PHASE 1, THEN CONSIDER PHASE 2 OR CONDITIONAL ENACTMENT,” arguing that doing so “puts Democrats in a defensive position.”

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