Friday, April 20, 2018

Abortion fights cost AZ $2.32 million, anti-abortion legislators Yee and Lesko run for high office

Late last year the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reported that Court losses piling up for anti-abortion legislation, cost state millions. You know from the headline that the focus was on the repeated losses incurred by Arizona because of the numerous attempts by the GOPlins in the state legislature to restrict or even outright ban abortion. Those attempts generally failed, being ruled unconstitutional, and then the state had to cough up the bucks for legal fees.

The state of Arizona has been ordered to pay roughly $2.2 million in legal fees in the past eight years to organizations that challenge restrictive abortion laws adopted by the Republican-controlled state Legislature.

Some of those court orders are more than a decade in the making, like a challenge to a 1999 law with sweeping regulations of abortion providers that was finally settled in 2010, to a more recent case dealing with questionable medical advice the state required physicians to give to patients seeking medication abortions, for which a U.S. District Court judge ruled in August the state must cough up more than $600,000 in attorneys’ fees.

Just this week, the state and Planned Parenthood of Arizona settled the case for a sum of $550,000 in attorney fees.

Those court ordered payments, the result of five cases the state has either lost, settled or been nullified by legislative repeal, don’t include the costs to the Attorney General’s Office, which spent more than 3,300 hours and an estimated $173,500 defending the state in four such cases, according to an analysis of expense records and time sheets provided by the attorney general.

All told, that’s roughly $2.32 million spent defending laws that legislators were warned may not pass muster in court.

Why keep doing this?

That’s on Republican legislators, who either don’t accept that they can’t regulate abortion to the degree they seek, or worse, said Jodi Liggett, vice president of public affairs with Planned Parenthood of Arizona.

“The less charitable view is that they understand perfectly that these are unconstitutional bills, they’re being advised that, and candidly, it’s a form of harassment,” Liggett said. “To make us go down there, spend money on lobbyists trying to stop things and then spend money on attorneys trying to stop them in court. So I think there’s a bit of burnishing their cred with the Center for Arizona Policy, or just as ‘pro-life’ legislators.”

That Center for Arizona Policy (CAP for short), and its president Cathi Herrod, is the driving force. And that’s the second theme in Times’ report.

The third theme identifies two current candidates for public office who are attached (umbilically?) to Herrod and CAP.

Herrod pointed to HB2036, sponsored by then Rep. Kimberly Yee in 2012, which included a ban on abortions after 20 weeks. That policy was overturned in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But at the time Yee, a Phoenix Republican, sponsored the bill and the center helped guide it through the Legislature …

Me thinks Herrod does not worry about the legal bills paid for by the Arizona taxpayers. Neither do the GOPlins who spend our tax money on predictably losing causes.

As for the losses in court, Center for Arizona Policy’s wins make the cost of litigation worth it, Herrod said.

Republican legislators who back Herrod’s bills often feel the same way. None of the sponsors of bills that led to legal losses for the state returned calls for comment. But Sen. Debbie Lesko, who as a representative sponsored the bill to block abortion providers from tax credit benefits in 2011, had her reason for pushing the bill cited in an order preliminarily blocking the law.

“I believe God has put me here for a reason,” Lesko, a Peoria Republican, had said during a committee hearing. “And I often ask Him, ‘What is that reason?’ and I ask for a purpose. (I ask Him to) ‘Please guide me and tell me what you want me to do.’ And I truly believe that one of the purposes that I have been put in this position is to protect the lives of innocent children.”

Now this is interesting. You see, Lesko is the Queen of Voucher Vultures. One her big missions is school choice (aka vouchers for all, crumbs for public schools). I have to infer: reproductive choice is unGODly but school choice is sanctified (at least in Lesko’s world view). Now I cannot reconcile this contradiction but then I just don’t understand the God Over People crowd anyway.

Yee is running for AZ State Treasurer and Lesko is running for the House of Representatives in AZ CD8.

Stay tuned for more information from the CD8 special election in just a few days on April 24th.

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