Arizona for Abortion Access is suing the Legislative Council for a description of the abortion vote

Arizona for Abortion Access is suing members of the Arizona Legislative Council after adopting what it calls anti-abortion language to describe the group’s abortion ballot initiative. The measure aims to expand access to abortion to viability, from the current limit of 15 weeks.

“We filed this lawsuit today to hold politicians accountable and ensure that Arizona voters receive an unbiased summary of our measure in the promotional brochure, instead of one that uses a politically charged phrase embraced by our opponent,” said campaign manager Cheryl Bruce.

The organization is asking for a preliminary and permanent injunction to stop the secretary of state from printing the council’s analysis of the initiative until the language is changed.

Under ARS § 19-124(C), the Legislative Council must prepare “an impartial analysis of the provisions of each ballot measure or proposed amendment.” But in a party-line vote of 8 to 6, the council approved the use of “unborn human being” — a phrase used by anti-abortion groups to describe a fetus — for this election’s promotional brochure. That handout is used to explain what the current state law is and what is being proposed.

“Current state law prohibits a physician from performing an abortion if the unborn human’s probable gestational age is more than 15 weeks, except when a pregnant woman’s medical condition requires an immediate abortion,” the draft summary states. In its current draft, the description also uses the term fetus later.

“In the context of reproductive rights, the phrase unborn human is tinged with partisan colors,” Austin Yost, an attorney for Arizona for Abortion Access, told the council Monday. Yost urged lawmakers to change the phrase to the medical term fetus but was quickly rebuffed by Republican lawmakers like Speaker Ben Toma.

“Using the word fetus is also biased, for those of us on the pro-life side,” Toma said. “So the fact that the description actually uses both phrases in different sections, to me, seems very fair and balanced.”

Tucson Democratic Representative Stephanie Stahl-Hamilton tried to request an amendment to change the language to the medical term fetus but was denied. Toma argued that it was important to use clear language for the public.

“I’m not a doctor, Representative Hamilton,” Toma said. “I don’t care what the medically correct term is … if you would have said, I had an abortion versus I had a miscarriage, that means two different things to the average person when you talk to them. And so we talking about is trying to be clear about what this initiative does.”

Arizona for Abortion Access — the organization leading the campaign to protect abortion access in Arizona’s constitution — says this isn’t the first time anti-abortion lawmakers have threatened their initiative.

“We have seen these politicians and opposition leaders make repeated baseless allegations about what this measure is doing to scare and intimidate voters,” Bruce said. “The Arizona for Abortion Access campaign seeks to take these decisions out of the hands of these politicians once and for all. This fall, when voters seek information about what is on their ballots, that information, by law, should be accurate and not colored by inflammatory politics rhetoric.”

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