For many people, the start of the New Year is marked by plans and vows to make life changes and start fresh. Some people go on diets , some give up nasty habits, and others reconcile differences with loved ones. Then there are those who set out to impose on the lives and health of millions of Arizonans, as is the case of for 61 of the 90 Arizona Legislators. This year’s legislative session was a deliberate, detrimental attack on women’s freedoms, women’s health and the intelligence of women to make decisions regarding their own bodies, their fate and their lives.
Through the nine anti-choice bills that were proposed by members of the House and Senate, opponents of Planned Parenthood sought to mandate regulations that try to eliminate abortion out of existence, stigmatize not only abortion, but the individuals who seek this type of medical care as well as harass the Planned Parenthood network including patients, staff, volunteers and supporters.
House Bill 2416 is one of the bills that try to eliminate abortion out of existence. It redefines taking the abortion pill as “surgery.” It is clearly an unnecessary, extravagant, over-regulation that will result in more than half of Arizona’s miniscule population of abortion providers becoming ineligible to provide care. Women who live in Arizona’s rural areas will lose access to abortion entirely, as abortion-by-pill is currently the only form of care outside Phoenix and Tucson. Because abortion-by-pill is used by women in the fifth to ninth week of pregnancy, this proposal aims to reduce abortion early in pregnancy which could result in more surgical abortion which is potentially riskier than by pill.
In an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, House Bill 2384 excludes Planned Parenthood from eligibility as a qualifying organization for The Working Poor Tax Credit. It excludes any organizations from qualifying under the “working poor donation tax credit” (a program for charitable organizations) if they provide or refer for abortion care and it also prohibits public money from being spent on abortion care training for medical students. Because Planned Parenthood is the only qualifying organization that provides abortions, the bill excludes only Planned Parenthood from eligibility. Our organization relies on donations from supporters in order to provide an array of services to low income patients; without these funds, Planned Parenthood will lose the ability to provide 430 well women exams, 150 HPV Vaccines, 200 IUDs or 1,500 packs of birth control.
By banning race and gender selection abortion, House Bill 2443 tries to create the impression that women and families are deciding to end pregnancies on those bases. Since there is absolutely no evidence that this is occurring, this bill is solely designed to further damage the reputations of women who choose abortion and those who provide such services. It is an unwarranted attack based on ideology, not fact and contributes only to the causes of stigmatizing and harassing Planned Parenthood’s network.
Senate Bill 1169 prohibits the Arizona Board of Nursing from determining whether abortion care is within the scope of practice of a highly trained nurse practitioner. Like HB2416, this bill aims to reduce the number of abortion providers in order to regulate the procedure out of existence. Similarly, Senate Bill 1030 prohibits physician’s assistants from providing abortion-by-pill, resulting in creating the same hoops that women and physicians must jump through as HB2416 and SB1169 have created.
By April 19th, Governor Jan Brewer had signed all of these radical anti-choice bills into law, reinforcing her stance against women’s health care. In July of this year, they will be in effect across the state of Arizona, putting into place more than 50 new reproductive health restrictions.
Although we are fighting a battle against Arizona conservatives, it’s important for us to not give up hope, to stay strong and continue the fight; we are not alone. Thirty-two percent of Arizona Legislators voted in favor of women’s reproductive health rights. They fought diligently to oppose these extreme anti-choice bills; they called into question the motives, the medical validity and the expected outcomes of the proposed bills. Not only did our supporters at the state capitol work to fight our opposition, they fought to implement commonsense legislation that would make fundamental healthcare needs available to those most in need of it. Unfortunately, the two bills that Planned Parenthood supported were never even voted on.
House Bill 2428 would have required hospitals to provide Emergency Contraception (EC) to sexual assault survivors in the emergency room; recognized the duty of pharmacies and providers to stock and dispense EC, and provided for an awareness program to educate Arizonans about EC. Currently, the EC is sold at many local pharmacies, however, it is up to the discretion of the pharmacists to sell it to you; it is with in their right, according to the written law, to deny women this medical treatment based on their own religious beliefs.
Speaker of the House, Kirk Adams, was presented this bill to make the decision of sending it to a committee to start the voting process. He read the bill and quickly dismissed it; no action was taken on it. He didn’t feel that pregnancy due to rape was an important enough issue to be voted on by the other 59 House Representatives.
SB1457 was the other bill that Planned Parenthood supported; it would have required all schools to provide sex education that is “medically accurate” and “comprehensive.” This bill was presented to Senator Russell Pearce, Senate President. He too dismissed the bill without sending it to committee to be voted on, ultimately by the remaining 29 senators. By only funding abstinence only-until-marriage education, the government is funding inaccurate, misleading information to teens who are already easily influenced by authority figures.
As a result of the continuing abstinence-only programs, our youth will continue to suffer from ignorance, causing an increased risk of teen pregnancy and increased risk of contracting a Sexually Transmitted Infection. To find out more about how abstinence-only programs negatively impact today’s youth check out Planned Parenthood’s website.
To see a full summary of the measures passed this year, please view Planned Parenthood’s Scorecard for the 2011 Arizona Legislative Session. See how YOUR Legislators voted on issues that impact the reproductive health and rights of Arizonans, and please pass this information along to your pro-choice friends and family.
Thanks for the run-down (so to speak) on how our legislators have treated women this year. I hope this info inspires women (and men) to become politically active and help get out the vote in 2012.