A new Arizona tax law, originally scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, has been blocked by a federal judge. The law, which began as House Bill 2384, specifically addresses organizations that “provide, pay for, promote, provide coverage of or provide referrals for abortions.” The law excludes such organizations as well as its financial supporters from Arizona’s Working Poor Tax Credit Program. In other words, anyone who donates to pro-abortion organizations would be ineligible for the credit, at least for those particular contributions.
But some have called the law a violation of free speech, and Arizona federal judge Roslyn Silver agrees. “Arizona could not punish an organization with a fine if it were to engage in certain types of abortion-related speech,” Silver noted in her ruling. “Excluding an organization from the program solely because of the type of abortion-related speech which the organization engages in is an attempt to impose a similar financial harm.”
The Working Poor Tax Credit allows citizens to receive a tax credit for contributing to charitable organizations that operate on behalf of the working poor. These may include homeless shelters, food banks, disabled services and children’s services. This 100-percent tax credit caps at $200 for individuals and $400 for couples.
Some abortion providers work specifically to assist women who cannot afford the cost of the procedure, and to offer educational services which may include information about pregnancy termination. Any organizations engaging in these activities would have been barred from the tax credit under HB2384.
The block may soon be appealed by House Majority Whip Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, who authored the legislation. Lesko argued at a recent debate that the purpose of the bill is to “protect the lives of innocent children,” and further emphasized that Arizona law already prohibits state funds from being used for abortion services. According to Lesko, her bill merely closes a loophole in the law.
The Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence has spoken out against the legislation, arguing that it unfairly targets organizations that provide valuable assistance to women who need it most. In an official media release, the AzCADV argued that “Our members shouldn’t feel torn between presenting a pregnant woman with information about her options and sacrificing much-needed donations.”
The AzCADV has filed a lawsuit opposing the legislation, with help from the American Civil Liberties Union.