By Ron Johnson
Executive Director of the Arizona Catholic Conference
Significant Pro-Life Advancements
On the 100th day of the legislative session, the Arizona Legislature adjourned sine die at 5:25 a.m., making it one of the shortest sessions in recent years. Before its completion, however, the 2011 legislative session featured a number of monumental achievements, especially with regard to pro-life legislation.
In particular, the Arizona Catholic Conference (ACC) is very grateful that legislation we supported (HB 2416) was signed into law so that women seeking an abortion must first be offered a chance to see an ultrasound and hear the heartbeat of their unborn child.
Another of the many pro-life highlights this year also included passage of a measure (HB 2384) to deny tax credits for donations to organizations referring for or providing abortions. We believe that both HB 2416 and HB 2384 are meaningful new laws that will save lives and benefit women and children.
In addition to these bills, the Legislature passed into law several positive measures specifying that: 1) physician assistants cannot prescribe medications for abortions (SB 1030); 2) nurse practitioners are not allowed to include performing abortions within the scope of their practice (SB 1169); and 3) abortions performed for the purpose of sex or race selection are prohibited (HB 2443).
With regard to the death penalty, the ACC was also pleased that the agency entrusted with providing a quality legal defense to those on death row was continued for another five years (SB 1245).
Finally, all of the hostile measures attacking pro-life interests were defeated without a hearing, including bills to mandate the distribution morning after pills (HB2428) and another relating to assisted suicide (SB1447).
Problematic Immigration Measures Fail
The good news from this past legislative session also continued with regard to high profile immigration bills that failed to pass this year.
Included among these problematic immigration bills opposed by the ACC were measures that would have, among other things, done the following: 1) denied birthright citizenship to undocumented immigrants born in Arizona (SB 1308 and SB 1309); 2) required hospitals to check the legal status of all patients (SB 1405); and 3) mandated that children enrolling in elementary school provide proof of legal status (SB 1611).
The ACC is grateful to all of the state senators who had the conviction and courage to vote no on these bills.
We also very much appreciate the hundreds of e-mails that were sent to elected officials on these bills by people responding to our “Action Alert.”
Concerns for Marriage, Families, and Vulnerable Populations
With regard to issues relating to marriage, positive legislation was signed into law creating a preference in adoptions for married couples when all other factors are equal (SB 1188). Similarly, another good proposal that became law was one requiring the education programs on divorce offered by the courts to include a component on the long-term effects of divorce on both the adults and children (SB 1187).
There were no direct attacks on the institution of marriage, but there was an unsuccessful attempt to repeal the charitable organization tax credit benefiting organizations like St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Charities, and crisis pregnancy centers. In light of the severe budget cutbacks to social services for low income people, the ACC is particularly pleased that this effort failed.
Additionally, there were the usual unsuccessful attempts to repeal the tuition tax credit program which benefits needy children attending Catholic and other private schools throughout Arizona. These tax credits enable parents to send their children to the schools that best fit their needs while saving the state money.
The ACC worked with a number of allies to not only defend, but also expand, school choice this year and are tremendously appreciative of the 900 messages sent in response to our “Action Alert” on this issue.
Thankfully, we were able to defend all current school choice laws and see the passage of a new program creating education savings accounts for disabled children this legislative session. While we were hoping to do even more expansion on the tuition tax credits this session, we remain grateful for the gains achieved and look forward to even more progress in 2012.
Finally, the ACC is grateful to all of the people and groups who supported our efforts through prayers and e-mails this session. We look forward to working with you again on the issues of greatest importance to the Catholic Church.
As always, your assistance in encouraging anybody you know to sign up for free e-mail updates will help us continue to grow the influence of the Catholic Church on these matters.