The House gave preliminary approval today for a bill that sets aside $2.5 million to be awarded to an organization that would provide referral services for pregnant women and new mothers.
But that came over the objection of Democrats who pointed out the cash would be reserved only for groups that would counsel women against having an abortion.
The preliminary approval came after the Republican-controlled chamber rejected a proposal by Rep. Mitzi Epstein, D-Tempe, to instead give the cash to an existing volunteer group that staffs the state’s 2-1-1 referral service. She said that would enable the organization to operate on a 24/7 basis statewide – and would provide a broader menu of services.
That suggestion was panned by Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa, who is pushing for the funding aimed at convincing women not to terminate their pregnancies. She said there is evidence that more women would choose to keep their babies if they could get help.
But Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley, D-Tucson, said there’s a better way to prevent abortions: prevent pregnancy in the first place.
“We should offer cheap or free contraception, the “morning after” pill and medically accurate sex education in the schools,” she told colleagues.
And Rep. Raquel Teran, D-Phoenix, said the legislation is crafted in a way to give the money to “crisis pregnancy centers” which are often run by churches and faith-based groups that have as their mission to deter women from terminating a pregnancy. She said the record from other states shows these organizations which uses “deceptive and manipulative practices.”
House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, did agree to scale back the program, providing the dollars for just one year instead of three. He also wants a report at the end of the year about what services actually were offered for the state dollars.