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Democrats look to codify abortion access into Arizona state law

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

The issue of abortion is mobilizing voters across the country, and Democrats have largely been the ones to benefit. They have been pushing to codify abortion access into state laws after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Now political strategists from both parties are zeroing in on the state of Arizona. NPR's Ximena Bustillo reports.

(APPLAUSE)

XIMENA BUSTILLO, BYLINE: Arizonans looking to expand access to abortion in the Grand Canyon state are already gathering outside courthouses. They were there because the state supreme court is weighing abortion restrictions. But they're not just protesting outside the court. They're hard at work mobilizing to get a ballot initiative that would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution.

CHRIS LOVE: We knew we needed to do something for 2024.

BUSTILLO: That's Chris Love, a senior adviser of Planned Parenthood of Arizona, one of the organizations behind the initiative.

LOVE: We are well ahead of where we anticipated we would be. And we are on track to, you know, producing about 800,000 signatures when all is said and done by July 3.

BUSTILLO: If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would override whatever conclusion the state supreme court comes to.

LOVE: That's the point, right? Our court shouldn't be deciding any of these things. These decisions should be between a pregnant person and their trusted medical provider.

BUSTILLO: Those on the other side are gearing up, too. Groups like Students for Life of America who want to restrict abortion access are preparing to fight the efforts in Arizona.

KRISTAN HAWKINS: These young people can be reached, and they can vote pro-life. But we have to speak to them and be real with them about what's really at stake.

BUSTILLO: That's Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America. Hawkins said they plan to increase their presence on college campuses in the state and target ads at younger voters. Young voters tend to favor abortion rights, but recent polling shows that the issue can still motivate young conservatives.

HAWKINS: Far too often, Republican pundits and even Republican campaigns - they just fail to reach out to this demographic, thinking that it's a lost cause. By winning a couple more percentage points of young people, that can shift the entire election.

BUSTILLO: And that can certainly be the case in the swing state of Arizona. In 2020, President Biden won the state by just 10,000 votes, and key Senate and House races that could determine who controls Congress will be on the ballot.

DANNI WANG: And specifically, this path runs straight through Arizona.

BUSTILLO: That's Danni Wang. She's the deputy director for campaign communications at EMILY's List, which helps elect Democratic women who support abortion rights. She says voters are eager to defend abortion protections.

WANG: I think they're incredibly invigorated to go out to the ballot box because it doesn't matter if you live in a state where abortion is constitutionally protected or if you live in Arizona, where the fate rests on this upcoming election.

BUSTILLO: Abortion-related initiatives have proved to be a major voter mobilizer. Democrats have seen these wins in states like Montana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio over the last two years, and organizers hope Arizona is next. Ximena Bustillo, NPR News, Phoenix.

(SOUNDBITE OF SLUM VILLAGE SONG, "FALL IN LOVE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.
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