Arizona’s most influential prolife advocacy group is opposing an initiative that raises money for schools, claiming the measure’s language is vague and could funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to abortion providers.
The campaign behind the initiative rejects the assertion. Among other things, they say the money can’t go to abortion providers because the measure does not supersede the state’s authority to decide how to spend its healthcare funds.
The bulk of revenues from Proposition 204, which seeks to keep an additional penny on the sales tax, will go to schools. The measure also sets aside $100 million annually to fight hunger, homelessness and domestic violence and to provide for child care and other community and social services that “lead to family stability and self-sufficiency.”
The Center for Arizona Policy, a powerful Evangelical-Christian lobby, said the terms “family stability” and “self-sufficiency” aren’t defined in the ballot measure, raising the possibility that funds from the tax could be exploited by a pro-abortion governor.
The measure also doesn’t clearly define what “other community and social services” may be provided, the Center added.
“That language is totally open-ended,” complained Cathi Herrod, the Center’s president and chief lobbyist.
“Our concern is that a future governor could use the money to subsidize the abortion industry to provide services, including abortion,” she added.
Herrod said a future governor could also interpret “self-sufficiency” to include a woman having an abortion because that would allow her, for example, to pursue school.
Under Prop. 204, the governor’s office is tasked to administer the “Human Services Self-sufficiency Fund.”
Erik Twist, chairman of Arizona Right to Life, called the initiative a “Trojan horse.”
“What’s being sold as an education proposal is actually a $1 billion permanent sales tax increase that could be used to finance abortion providers under the guise of funding ‘basic needs’,” he said in a news release from the Center.
The prolife groups’ opposition is a significant threat to the initiative because of the clout they carry not just at the Capitol but also among Evangelical Christian voters.
The Center is a veteran of ballot measures, and it led the successful campaign in 2008 to define marriage as the union between a man and a woman, thereby banning same-sex marriage in Arizona.
Quality Education and Jobs, the committee that is pushing for the one-cent sales tax, called the Center’s claim “deceitful.”
“What Proposition 204 does is provide support for children living near or below the poverty line. For the opposition to say otherwise is being deceitful with the voters,” said Ann-Eve Pedersen, chairwoman of the “yes” campaign.
Pedersen said the phrase “basic needs” is defined in the measure and it doesn’t include “health services,” let alone women’s health care.
“’Community and social services’ fall under the rubric of ‘human services’ that is separate and distinct from ‘health services,’” Pedersen said.
Dana Naimark, President and CEO of Children’s Action Alliance, echoed the sentiment and called the allegation a “diversion” from the main issue — that revenues are needed because legislators have slashed schools’ funding and social programs that benefit the vulnerable, and they have chosen to keep the budget flat even when the economy began to recover.
“I think the opponents are busy trying to confuse voters and divert attention from the fact that they (slashed) education funding and children’s health care, and they’ve really contradicted voter priorities,” Naimark said.
When pressed, Naimark said she doesn’t think revenues from the tax would go to abortion providers.
State law already prohibits public funds from paying for abortion procedures or for a health insurance that covers the procedure except in limited cases.
This year, lawmakers also approved legislation to prohibit the state from contracting with or making a grant to an entity that performs an abortion or runs a facility where abortions are performed.
The law effectively targets Planned Parenthood, which offers other health services, such as gynecological exams, testing for sexually-transmitted diseases and breast cancer screenings.
Planned Parenthood gets public funds for those other services.
But Planned Parenthood has always maintained that the public funds it gets aren’t used to pay for abortion procedures.
Actually, the law targeting the abortion provider is still being litigated in court.
But Herrod fears that Prop 204 would override the law even if it’s upheld in court because a section in the initiative says revenues from the one-penny tax aren’t subject to legislative appropriation or to an “expenditure limitation” unless that limitation was in place before Jan. 1, 2012.
The law that goes after Planned Parenthood’s funding was signed into law last May.