Legislators may sidestep 2 hot issues

Major action on immigration, abortion unlikely in new session
2013-01-14T00:00:00Z Legislators may sidestep 2 hot issuesHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
January 14, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Arizonans may finally get a break this year from what has been a perennial debate over two high-profile issues.

The chances of lawmakers approving major new restrictions on abortion this session are slim. Ditto significant new laws designed to deal with illegal immigrants.

In both cases, the reason is the same: The state probably has gone as far as it can, at least for now.

On abortion, opponents have the ultimate goal of making the process illegal. But that isn't possible unless and until the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its historic 40-year-old Roe v. Wade decision, which declared women have a constitutional right to terminate their pregnancy, at least early in the pregnancy.

Working within those constraints, Arizona already requires a 24-hour waiting period. Women must be provided information about the development of the fetus. Lawmakers banned specially trained nurse practitioners from doing even medical abortions. And there are various licensing requirements for abortion facilities.

Foes may have finally bumped up against the legal wall last session with a measure outlawing abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy.

A federal judge ruled last year that violates Supreme Court precedent, which says that while states may regulate abortions, it cannot ban the procedure outright before a fetus is viable, something that occurs in the 22- to 24-week range. A federal appellate court has that under review.

Abortion foes have so far fared no better with a separate measure last year aimed at Planned Parenthood. It says any organization that performs abortions is ineligible to get federal and state Medicaid money for family planning, even if the abortions are not paid for with government funds. That law, too, was placed on hold.

The limits on further legislative action are similar in the case of immigration.

Arizona has led the country with a series of measures, culminating with the 2010 law designed to give police more power to stop and detain suspected illegal immigrants. But the U.S. Supreme Court said three key provisions are clearly pre-empted by federal law.

And while the justices agreed to let the state begin enforcing the fourth - a provision that requires police to ask suspected illegal immigrants for documentation - they warned that language, too, could be overturned if there is evidence the law is being implemented in a discriminatory fashion.

Other sections aimed at day laborers and those who harbor illegal immigrants also have been enjoined by a trial judge.

There's also a political factor: Russell Pearce, the Mesa Republican who had been at the forefront of pushing these laws, is no longer in the Legislature. He was recalled and lost a subsequent bid to regain his seat.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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