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Arizona Law Says Choose Between Donations and Providing Care to Women

Alessandra Soler,
ACLU of Arizona
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August 18, 2011

Just months after Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl made false and misleading statements about Planned Parenthood’s prenatal services, Arizona is once again attacking groups that provide abortion information or services. The latest scheme: A law to rewrite the tax code to exclude any nonprofit organization that provides abortion referrals or counseling from receiving donations through the state’s Working Poor Tax Credit Program. This law is so broad that it could prevent groups from even discussing abortion or other reproductive health services with women in crisis. Today, we filed a lawsuit challenging that law.

Hundreds of groups serving Arizona’s working poor currently qualify to receive donations through the state’s tax credit program. They range from organizations that provide job training and arts education to medical care and emergency shelter. But H.B. 2384, which was passed this year, targets qualifying groups like the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence (AzCADV) that provide its clients, survivors of sexual and domestic violence, with critical information about reproductive health services.

This law has real consequences. Imagine a pregnant woman trying to escape from a violent relationship comes to a shelter and asks for information about her options and a referral to a reproductive health care provider. Under the new state law, the shelter has to make a choice: refuse to answer her question or give her any information, or lose out on critical donations. This choice is no choice at all. At a time when the state is slashing services for the poor and underserved, now is not the time for the state to try to gag or take away resources from organizations that are stepping up to provide much-needed services to women.

This is not who we are. Arizona has a long, rich history of protecting women and families from government interference in their personal health care decisions. Birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger was a Tucson resident for 30 years, and Sen. Barry Goldwater, who is often described as Arizona’s “conservative pioneer,” consistently voted to protect the ability of a woman facing an unintended pregnancy to choose what is best for her and her family, including abortion. His wife, Margaret Johnson, was one of the founders of Planned Parenthood in Arizona.

This rich history hasn’t stopped government officials from trying to impose their own version of morality on the rest of us, but the ACLU has always been there to defend the rights of Arizonans to make medical decisions without government interference. For example, in 1962, just three years after the ACLU of Arizona was founded, Maricopa County Health Services gagged all well-baby clinics in the county from referring any women to Planned Parenthood or any doctors that performed abortion services. The ACLU of Arizona went to court and in a case called Planned Parenthood Committee vs. Maricopa County, the Arizona Supreme Court lifted the gag order.

Nearly 50 years later, government officials are still trying to deprive women of vital information and services, but enough is enough. Together with the AzCADV we are asking the court to strike the law, because extreme political opposition to abortion is no excuse for depriving women of essential information and services.

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