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Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
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Arizona Drops Fight| for Abortion Gag Law

PHOENIX (CN) - Arizona gives up on law blocking nonprofits that provide abortion referrals from getting money from a state program for the poor.

Arizona House Bill 2384 prohibited the spending of public money to "pay the costs, premiums, or charges associated with a health insurance policy, contract, or plan that provides coverage, benefits, or services related to the performance of any abortion" unless the woman's life is at risk.

The Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence sued the state in August 2011, calling the law unconstitutional.

In its federal complaint, the coalition said its members must be allowed to discuss abortion services with clients because "the birth of a child (and the accompanying emotional and financial implications) can make it far more difficult, and even impossible, for a woman to escape an abusive relationship."

The coalition said the law allowed organizations with anti-abortion viewpoints "to participate in the tax credit program, while excluding organizations that express the opposite viewpoint on the basis of their speech."

The coalition sought an injunction, claiming claimed the "First Amendment does not permit the state to use the threat of expulsion from the tax credit program, and the ensuing loss of donations, to coerce plaintiff's members to give up constitutionally protected speech and to withhold this information from the women they serve."

The coalition said the law left it "with a Hobson's choice: Suppress abortion-related speech, in violation of their First Amendment rights and at the risk of their clients' health and safety, or lose access to a beneficial tax credit program."

Arizona's Working Poor Tax Credit Program "allows taxpayers who make voluntary cash donations to qualifying organizations to claim a dollar-for-dollar credit against their state taxes," the coalition said. Most of its members qualify for and participate in the program.

The Working Poor Tax Credit Program offers a dollar-for-dollar tax credit of up to $200 for individuals, and $400 for a married couple filing jointly.

Arizona conceded after a federal judge enjoined it from enforcing its law.

"We are glad that domestic violence programs will not have to choose between providing women requested information and much needed funding," the coalition's acting executive director Elizabeth Ditlevson said in a statement. "As a result of the permanent injunction, domestic violence programs can continue to focus all of their efforts on ensuring women and families can make the choices that are best for their circumstances."

The coalition was represented by Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

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