Gov. Jan Brewer makes no bones about her animosity toward Planned Parenthood.
“I do not support the goals of Planned Parenthood because I believe in life,” she said.
“They believe in choice,” the governor continued. “So let’s just cut right through the fat and tell it like it is.”
Brewer got to put her feeling about the organization into statute this session. She signed two measures that are designed to undercut Planned Parenthood funding.
And the governor is not only unapologetic. In an interview with Capitol Media Services on issues of morality and government, Brewer said that as long as the majority of lawmakers feel the way she does about Planned Parenthood — and the overall issue of abortion for that matter — she and they are entitled to impose their views on everyone else in Arizona.
One of the bills Brewer signed deals with the state’s Working Poor Tax Credit.
It provides a dollar-for-dollar state income tax credit 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.
Last year’s version, which Brewer signed, said credits are 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.” But a federal judge blocked the move, ruling the law illegally discriminates among otherwise eligible groups solely because they “express a pro-choice viewpoint.”
So lawmakers were back again this year, removing the language about promoting or referring people for abortions. And Brewer signed that, too.
Brewer also inked her approval to legislation which says no federal family planning funds funneled through the state can go to any organization that performs abortions. Proponents admitted that, too, was aimed directly at Planned Parenthood.
Existing law prohibits state funding for abortion. But Brewer’s contention is that any money that goes to Planned Parenthood for anything else then frees up cash which can be used to underwrite the cost of abortions.
The governor said it is the right of elected officials to make these policy choices, particularly on how public funds and tax credits are spent.
But not everything Brewer signed this year relates to funding.
She also approved a measure which bans abortions at 20 weeks. That is based on arguments that 20 weeks is the point the nervous system of a fetus is sufficiently developed to experience pain.
And she was not shy about a question of whether that legislation amounts to imposing her will and the will of government on those who do not agree.
“I guess it’s imposing what I believe in,” she said.
That leaves the question of where is the line — and why the government has the right to declare that abortion at 20 weeks is illegal when there are those who do not necessarily believe that is when life begins.
“Well, I believe that life begins at conception,” Brewer responded.
She acknowledged that the U.S. Supreme Court has said that women have a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.
“But we can still put responsible limitations on those kinds of issues,” the governor said. “And that’s what we’ve attempted to do.”
Nor was the governor concerned that what she considers “responsible limitations” might be considered by others an intrusion into their personal rights.
“It’s no different than when we do any other kinds of legislation or we set any other kinds of standards,” Brewer said. She said virtually all measures before lawmakers involve conflicting beliefs.
“This is the arena in which this is all debated,” the governor said. “And then we choose sides and there are winners and there are losers.”
And what of the rights of the minority?
“Well, the majority wins,” Brewer responded.
No matter what?
“As far as I know,” she said. “Every time I’ve ever seen the (voting) board down there (at the Legislature), the majority wins.”
And what of minority viewpoints who believe their rights have been taken?
“I guess then they take it to court,” Brewer said.
Brewer has signed other measures which also fall into the area of moral issues, including a new law that allows a company that designates itself as a “religiously affiliated employer to refuse to include contraceptives in insurance coverage provided to workers.
In prior years, Brewer has signed other abortion restrictions, including mandating a 24-hour waiting period before a woman can terminate a pregnancy and spelling out that specially trained nurse practitioners can no longer do early-term abortions.
And the governor has made no secret of the fact that, if it were left up to her, abortion would be totally illegal in Arizona except to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.
“Life does begin at conception,” Brewer said.
“It’s a baby,” the governor said. “A woman knows from the first time she throws up she’s pregnant and having a baby.”
The governor said there is nothing wrong with government getting involved in issues of morality.
“We are a moral country,” she said. “We are a moral society.”
But whose morals?
“I guess the majority’s morals,” Brewer answered. And she said there is no reason that politicians should leave their beliefs at the door when they take office.
“I mean, that is part of who you are,” she said. “It’s part of how you were raised, part of how you engage with the world, every day making those decisions you believe that are right and wrong.”
Brewer said these beliefs are “a basic fundamental part of your being.”
“And I believe in life,” she said. “And I believe that life begins at conception.”
One footnote to the whole debate is that if Jan Brewer had hoped to keep Planned Parenthood from getting federal funds through the state, she may end up disappointed.
The organization does get family planning funds from the federal Medicaid program for the poor. And in most states, that program has the state directly pay health care providers for their services.
But the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, this state’s Medicaid program, involves the state contracting with health plans — essentially insurance companies — and they, in turn contract with individual providers for services. And that now includes Planned Parenthood.
AHCCCS spokeswoman Monica Coury said because her agency does not directly pay Planned Parenthood, she does not know if the funding ban applies.