Two and a half weeks after Governor Doug Ducey funded the 211 hotline program in the midst of the coronavirus, a naturopathic medical student called for funding the 211 hotline program in the pages of this paper. Apparently, the hotline – which refers callers to a variety of services, including food banks, shelters and other generally available assistance – only counts if it includes referrals to abortion clinics.
The author, Adriana Berusch Gerardino, is either unaware or intolerant of a number of realities with which she disagrees. To her credit, she does admit being “confused.” The author is confused about the ongoing debate over abortion. She is confused about the rights of faith-based organizations and their inclusion in free speech. She is confused about the U.S. Constitution, and she is confused about who, exactly, is withholding information.
Arizona has a long-held policy of not using taxpayer money to fund abortion services. You’ll find it in the state’s charitable tax credit program, out of state abortion training for health care workers, and pretty much across the board.
Arizona follows this policy because of the continued controversy over the practice of abortion. Many Arizonans, including Arizona legislators, support protecting the preborn.
That confuses Ms. Berusch Gerardino, who labels debate over taxpayer funded abortions “absurd.” She calls for the silencing of those who disagree with her, saying, “We must also stop discussions debating the merits of abortion.” Considering what we now know about the early development of a baby in the womb, I understand why a pro-abortion activist wouldn’t want to debate the merits of abortion. But to call for censorship of speech on the issue is quite astonishing, as well as unconstitutional.
Though, the Constitution doesn’t seem to be Ms. Berusch Gerardino’s strong suit. Arguing against any input from Center for Arizona Policy, she claims, “Our Constitution calls for a separation of church and state.” No, no it doesn’t. That would be a political letter to the Danbury Baptists during a campaign in which Thomas Jefferson was assuring the religious minority in Connecticut of his support for religious rights, free from federal government intervention. He in no way was suggesting Americans with religious viewpoints have no voice in public policy.
The U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from establishing a religion, as well as prohibits any law that infringes on one’s right to exercise religion. The free speech rights of the First Amendment protect all, including those with religious convictions who participate in public policy.
The author interprets such opposition as “bullying,” but sees no such compulsion in literally forcing pro-life Arizonans to pay for abortions.
Ms. Berusch Gerardino often asks, “Why do we allow these organizations…” I don’t know who she is talking about when she uses the term, “we.” But the notion that anyone should be shutting down opposing viewpoints under penalty of law is, again, unconstitutional. It also says a lot about the suppressor’s lack of a convincing argument.
The author’s claim that not including Planned Parenthood in the 211 hotline program leaves women without non-abortion services is utterly untrue. It is widely acknowledged that Planned Parenthood’s menu of services starts and ends with abortion . In addition, Arizona women have nearly 200 community health clinics from which to choose. Compare that to the 10 Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the state. This shatters the suggestion that Planned Parenthood is a woman’s only option in any Arizona community.
Ms. Berusch Gerardino laments the lack of “access to information” about abortions. Does anyone really believe women don’t know they can get an abortion in Arizona, or that information on abortion is scarce? On the contrary, it was Planned Parenthood who fought laws requiring notification of risks and alternatives, and ultrasounds so women knew how far along they were in their pregnancies. It is Planned Parenthood who currently has a lawsuit against the state of Arizona fighting requirements designed to ensure women have access to all the information before deciding to have an abortion.
Abortion remains a divisive issue. Healthy debate on the merits is crucial in a free and diverse society. No one is excluded from the public square, because although Ms. Berusch Gerardino cannot fathom dissent, countless voting Arizonans know abortion is not health care.
Cindy Dahlgren is the Communications and Media Specialist for Center for Arizona Policy.