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Oral Arguments on Anti-Abortion Law

PHOENIX (CN) - A federal judge on Wednesday heard arguments on an Arizona state law that bars services that discuss abortion with clients from receiving tax credits under the state's Working Poor Tax Credit.

House Bill 2384 prohibits 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.

U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver said the law may violate the First Amendment.

But Arizona Solicitor General David Cole told Silver the law is constitutional because the state is restricting a group's activities, but not its freedom of speech.

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

In its complaint, the coalition said that 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."

Arizona's Working Poor Tax Credit Program "was designed to increase donations to qualifying organizations by allowing taxpayers to claim a credit on their state tax returns if they make a donation to a qualifying organization," according to the complaint. The coalition says that 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. HB 2384 is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

The coalition is represented by the ACLU.

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