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Pictured above: Phone Operator. From https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/a0/74/fc/a074fc6f8f7bc6d937f943b7772d1a4c.jpg

Hello, 911? I’d like to report a dumpster fire.

Anti-abortion politicians are at it again — this time targeting the 2-1-1 referral system as a pretext for charging the taxpayers $3 million to fund a pilot program to promote childbirth instead of abortion. The 2-1-1 system is a statewide information and referral network that has been in service since 1964, with more than 80% of calls regarding public utility inquiries.

A new funding bill for the 2-1-1 system is bloated with unnecessary abortion restrictions and charges taxpayers $3 million to promote childbirth.

2-1-1 Arizona is a private, nonprofit organization run by Crisis Response Network, Inc. Through their website, mobile app, and automated phone system, Arizonans can learn about important community services — resources that include assistance with housing, food, and bills; domestic violence; health, dental, and mental health care; services for disabled people and veterans; employment services; and more. Planned Parenthood is one of hundreds of resources listed under Health & Dental, and their inclusion in 2-1-1 Arizona’s listing helps connect patients to vital family planning, STD testing, and cancer screening services. A Google search shows there is no mention of the word abortion anywhere on 2-1-1 Arizona’s website.

So when powerful lobbying groups like the Center for Arizona Policy claim the service promotes abortion, they are being disingenuous. Mirror bills — SB 1328 and HB 2388 — would exclude abortion providers and any organization that supports patients seeking abortion, while allocating more than a million dollars of taxpayer money to a private marketing firm to “promote” the 2-1-1 system, a system that the state of Arizona defunded in 2009 during the Great Recession. Proponents of these bills are using the 2-1-1 system as nothing more than a pretext to direct millions of dollars in taxpayer money to disguise and omit information on community resources and referrals.

But that’s not all. These bills would allocate an additional $3 million to a pilot program that “promotes childbirth over abortion.” How this promotion of childbirth relates to the 2-1-1 network (and its price tag of $3 million) is still unclear; what remains clear is rather than supporting education to limit unintended pregnancies, the state Legislature wants to give away $3 million to anti-abortion special interests.

Let’s be crystal clear: These bills are meant to further the stigmatization of patients accessing abortion care, and using millions of taxpayer dollars to fund this stigma and is unconscionable — and about to be written into law. That’s why Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona are fighting these bills head on.

You can help fight against these bills by contacting the Republican leaders in both chambers and letting them know these bills would lead to a terrible waste of Arizona’s resources.

Keep calling. This is what Democracy looks like!

  • Senate: President Karen Fann at 602-926-5874 — No SB 1328!
  • House: Speaker Rusty Bowers at 602-926-3128 — No HB 2388!

Suggested script: The 2-1-1 system is a vital network of resources available to every Arizonan and the government should not censor that list by excluding any resource, including abortion providers. As a constituent, I believe that using millions of dollars to promote a new program instead of funding existing programs is fiscally irresponsible. I want to tell my legislator to vote NO on SB 1328/HB2388.

Tags: SB1328, Arizona, 2-1-1, legislation-watch

About Kelley

Kelley is the Strategic Relations Officer for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona.