A federal judge indicated Wednesday she may block the state from cutting off tax credits available to those who donate to organizations that tell their clients about abortions.
Judge Roslyn Silver said it appears that the law, approved earlier this year, discriminates among groups based on the content of what their employees tell clients. That, she said, would appear to run afoul of the First Amendment which precludes the government from making such distinctions.
But Silver said she will consider arguments by David Cole, the state's solicitor general, that lawmakers are entitled to make such a distinction. The judge gave no indication when she will rule on the request to enjoin enforcement of the law while the case winds its way through the legal system.
The fight is over changes to existing laws that provide people a dollar-for-dollar state income tax credits for donations to charitable organizations that spend half their funds on the poor, chronically ill or physically disabled. The annual cap is $200 for individuals and $400 for couples.
Under the new law, credits would be available only to a charity that provides a statement that it "does not provide, pay for, promote, provide coverage of or provide referrals for abortions and does not financially support any other entity that provides, pays for, promotes, provides coverage of or provides referrals for abortions."
The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on behalf of the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a group that currently can tell donors they can get a tax credit. ACLU attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas told Silver that the new law would have a severe impact on the organization's ability to get donations to do its job.
Kolbi-Molinas said some clients are pregnant, sometimes because they have been raped and sometimes because an abusive spouse or partner has sabotaged the birth control.
She said those women would be harmed if they cannot be told about how to get an abortion if they want one. That, Kolbi-Molinas said, entitles the judge to bar the change in law from taking effect as scheduled at the end of this year.
Cole, however, urged Silver to be more cautious before voiding the law, even temporarily.
"This statute deserves the same presumption of constitutionality that any other state or federal law deserves," he told the judge.