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ACLU sues state over new abortion measure

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona and the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence have filed a federal lawsuit challenging a new state law that prohibits entities from qualifying as charitable organizations if they provide, pay for, promote or refer patients for abortions.

The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Phoenix today, argues that HB2384 violates the free speech rights of some of the coalition’s members because it prohibits them from qualifying for the state’s Working Poor Tax Credit program, which offers residents a tax credit for donations to an organization that serves low-income people.

Language in the new law says that donations will no longer be eligible for if they go to an organization that “provides, pays for, promotes, provides coverage of or provides referrals” for abortion services. Since there is no accompanying definition of what would be considered “promoting” abortion, the suit alleges that the law is a violation of the First Amendment.

“HB 2384 forces Plaintiff’s members to stop providing crucial information about abortion to their clients, or face expulsion from the tax credit program and loss of its benefits,” the complaint reads. “In direct contravention of the most basic First Amendment principles, HB 2384 thus punishes Plaintiff’s members for speech the Legislature does not like and impermissibly conditions the availability of a benefit on forfeiture of the right to speak.”

According to the complaint, the coalition works with approximately 30 groups that help victims of domestic abuse, of whom at least 20 participate in the Working Poor Tax Credit program.

The suit further argues that the information the nonprofits provide about abortion services are vital, particularly for the groups that work with women who are victims of domestic violence. A woman getting out of an abusive relationship could be put in danger if she is forced to carry an unexpected pregnancy to term, the suit alleges.

“This bill puts organizations that serve women in desperate need between a rock and a hard place,” Allison Bones, executive director of the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said in a written statement. “Programs that serve victims of domestic violence should not have to choose between much-needed donations and the ability to provide comprehensive, uncensored care to the women they serve.”

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