Arizona taxpayers won’t be funding a special program designed to help groups that urge women not to terminate their pregnancies.
HB 2759 picked up just 15 votes in the Senate on Monday night, one short of what is needed, as two Republican legislators sided with Democrats to quash the plan.
Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, one of the foes, said her vote has nothing to do with a position on abortion. She said it has to do with the fact that there was another − and she believes better − alternative, one that cost less than the $2.5 million requested.
That program, said Brophy McGee, is for the 2-1-1 telephone service now being operated by volunteers. But efforts to get $1 million to ensure 24/7 funding fell short, at least in part because the anti-abortion Center for Arizona Policy wanted language that would have required the people giving advice to turn away any requests for information on what services are available to terminate a pregnancy.
Brophy McGee said there were perhaps three to six calls to 2-1-1 each year seeking such information out of more than 950,000 requests for information. And in denying the funding, she said, some people are not getting services.
“I know that embedded in those calls for help are pregnant moms struggling to find services and help having already made that decision to keep that baby,” Brophy McGee said.
What that left is a House-passed bill that would give $2.5 million to an organization to provide both direct services and referral information to parents, including those of unborn children, with the money that can be spent to encourage healthy childbirth, promote family formation and “support childbirth as an alternative to abortion.”
And to be clear, the legislation said one kind of information could not be given out: referring women to places that perform abortions.
“I applaud the desire to focus on alternatives to abortion, and the infant and family following the birth of that infant under difficult circumstances,” Brophy McGee said. “But I cannot reconcile a failure to fund 2-1-1 even after negotiating an amendment eliminating abortion referrals.”
Sen. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, the other Republican voting against the plan, said the failure to fund 2-1-1 services was just part of her objection to setting aside $2.5 million for this special anti-abortion program.
Carter also pointed out that the budget does not include money she and others had sought for dental care for pregnant women, a program she said would help the health of not just the mother but the unborn child.
“I find it ironic that we can find money to do this,” she said of the program to urge women not to abort their children. “But we can’t fund money to do the other two programs.”
Monday’s vote is a rare defeat for CAP President Cathi Herrod who has a nearly perfect track record in getting the Legislature to enact anti-abortion measures.