Arizona Governor Signs Bills Protecting Women's Sports, Preventing Minors From Gender Reassignment

State also prohibits abortions after 15 weeks

Arizona governor Doug Ducey (R.) / AP
March 30, 2022

Arizona governor Doug Ducey (R.) signed bills on Wednesday that ban biological men from participating in girl's sports, make gender reassignment surgeries illegal for minors, and prohibit abortions past 15 weeks.

The governor said the laws will promote "fairness" in girl's sports and protect children from going through irreversible gender surgeries. In addition, the 15-week abortion prohibition, he said, will uphold the state's responsibility to defend "every life—including pre-born life."

The move comes after transgender swimmer Lia Thomas's controversial NCAA championship win—a signal event in women's sports history. The decision to let Thomas compete has been harshly criticized and in some cases prompted responses from Republican governors. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) in an official state declaration last week recognized Sarasota native Emma Weyant, not Thomas, as the winner of the NCAA women's 500-yard freestyle. Thomas competed as a male until this season and placed in multiple men's events at the 2019 Ivy League Championships.

Transgender athletes can retain advantages over their competitors. A 2020 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that men who transition into women remain both stronger and faster than their peers after one year of hormone therapy. Thomas started therapy in 2019 but still has male body parts.

A majority of Americans believe athletes should participate on teams that correspond with their birth gender, according to a May 2021 Gallup poll. Studies have also shown more than two-thirds of children cease to express a desire to gender transition once they are fully grown.

"This legislation is common-sense and narrowly targeted to address these two specific issues⁠—while ensuring that transgender individuals continue to receive the same dignity, respect and kindness as every individual in our society," Ducey in a statement said of the bill promoting sex-specific sports.

State representative Shawnna Bolick, a Republican who supported the bill, said it has created a level playing field for female athletes.

"This bill to me is all about biology," Bolick told a local NBC News affiliate. "In my opinion, it's unfair to allow biological males to compete with biological girls sports."

Ducey is the 14th governor to sign legislation preventing male-to-female transgender athletes from participating in girl's sports. He is the first to sign a 15-week abortion ban into law, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The 15-week abortion prohibition will apply to physicians, not women, and unlike legislation signed in May 2021 by Texas governor Greg Abbott (R.), citizens may not sue abortion providers.