PHOENIX — Arizona taxpayers won’t be funding a special program designed to help groups that urge women not to terminate pregnancies.
House Bill 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 opponents, said her vote has nothing to do with a position on abortion. She said there was a better alternative, one that cost less than the $2.5 million requested.
That program, said Brophy McGee, is the 2-1-1 telephone service now being operated by volunteers that provides community referrals for various social, employment and health services.
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 services 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.
What that left was a House-passed bill to give $2.5 million to an organization to provide direct services and referral information to parents, including those of unborn children. The money could have been spent to encourage healthy childbirth, promote family formation and “support childbirth as an alternative to abortion.”
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 a special anti-abortion program.
Carter also pointed out that the state 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.
Monday’s vote was a rare defeat for CAP President Cathi Herrod, who has a nearly perfect track record in getting the Legislature to enact anti-abortion measures.