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Unelected Lawmakers: Public Records Show How One Anti-Abortion Group Wields Extensive Power Over Arizona Policy

Mario Sto. Domingo, Research Intern | Public Records

After multiple failed attempts to pass state funding for anti-abortion centers (AACs) (also known as crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs), Arizona state legislators tucked a line-item appropriation of $1.5 million for a "family health pilot program" for the fiscal year 2021–2022 into one of the state’s annual budget bills, which was recently signed into law on June 30, 2021, by Governor Doug Ducey. This "family health pilot program" will divert Arizonan taxpayers’ dollars to unlicensed facilities that often use medically inaccurate information to coerce people away from abortion care. In our Mapping Deception report, Equity Forward highlighted similar alternatives to abortion (A2A) programs in other states that serve as a model for Arizona, which has become the 15th state in the country with a publicly funded A2A program.

Arizona’s A2A funding provision and other anti-reproductive health bills have passed in large part due to the efforts of the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP), one of the state’s most influential right-wing lobbying organizations. Equity Forward has previously documented CAP’s outsized influence on state politics through its attempts to pass anti-abortion and anti-vaccine legislation in 2019. From December 2020 through June 2021, we sent 26 public records requests to the Arizona state legislature, the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Arizona Office of the Attorney General requesting correspondence between state officials and outside entities lobbying for anti-reproductive health bills.

After receiving and reviewing over 600 pages of public records from Arizona’s legislature and various state agencies, Equity Forward has identified the following key insights:

CAP's Extremist Agenda Is Facilitated by Like-Minded Lawmakers

CAP Has Had a Heavy Hand In Diverting Funds to Unlicensed Anti-Abortion Centers

CAP Works with Sen. Barto and Other Extremists to Push Forward Hateful Rhetoric and Harmful Policy

  • CAP sent various talking points to Sen. Nancy Barto and other lawmakers on SB1457, a now-enacted bill that bans abortions based on fetal diagnosis and prohibits mail delivery of abortion medication, and SB1482, a failed proposal that would have prohibited state and local officials from banning harmful anti-LGBTQIA+ "conversion therapy."
  • Rep. Michelle Udall and Sen. Nancy Barto spearheaded SB1456, a bill supported by CAP that would have severely limited all instruction related to sexuality and HIV/AIDS without parental approval and banned all sex education before the fifth grade. Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed SB1456 due to concerns that it would prohibit young children from learning about sexual abuse awareness. The state legislature and governor passed HB2035, a revised bill supported by CAP, that still bans sex education before the fifth grade and requires parents to opt their children into any discussion of sexuality, including for classes that are not particularly related to sex education, such as history or English.
  • From what appears to be a personal email account, Sen. Nancy Barto forwarded CAP President Cathi Herrod an article by a self-identified “ex-lesbian” in favor of "conversion therapy."
  • CAP President Cathi Herrod and Sen. Nancy Barto exchanged transphobic remarks when discussing trans youth participation in sports. Sen. Barto claimed, “So many girls have no idea what will hit them [literally] in the near future.”

CAP Continues to Lobby Beyond The Arizona Legislature And Seeks to Influence State Health Department Officials

  • CAP has not only been in close communication with state legislators but has also had close communication with the Arizona Department of Health Services, the designated administrator of the new anti-abortion "family health pilot program." At the request of CAP President Cathi Herrod, the department drafted an amendment requiring its homepage to have a “conspicuous link” to a state-run adoption website, as mandated by SB1254, that prohibits any mention of abortion-related agencies or centers. The bill was signed into law on April 23, 2021. Herrod has also communicated with the department on abortion statistics and has inquired about the license status of an abortion clinic.
  • While advocacy groups routinely meet with legislators to inform policy decisions, CAP goes beyond the legislative process and continues to involve itself in the policy implementation process, even after it successfully lobbied for two alternatives to abortion programs. In late July 2021, CAP President Cathi Herrod, who has no medical background, requested a meeting with state health department officials to discuss the anti-abortion "family health pilot program" and the anti-abortion adoption website. The department replied that they would be interested in a meeting.
  • When considered alongside the newly passed "family health pilot program," Arizona lawmakers have given anti-abortion centers $1.5 million and a government-sanctioned website—enough funding and visibility to trick and coerce more pregnant people away from their abortion decisions with incomplete and inaccurate information.

Explore our full public records analysis below through DocumentCloud: (Technical notes: All hyperlinks below will open in the same tab; please right-click on your browser and select Open link in new tab. If you want to view only the annotations, click Notes from the drop-down menu in the bottom-left corner of the interactive report.)

Despite the successful efforts of CAP and Arizona state legislators to pass various anti-reproductive health bills, Equity Forward will continue to keep a close eye on further developments and the implementation process of the newly passed anti-abortion center funding and related legislation.

Mario Sto. Domingo is a research intern at Equity Forward. His research and advocacy interests include reproductive, LGBTQIA+, and other human rights. Mario has worked as a research intern at NARAL Pro-Choice America and Freedom for All Americans. Mario is pursuing a master’s degree in public policy at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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