ACLU Sues for Planned Parenthood Tax Rebates in Arizona

State   Steven Ertelt   Aug 19, 2011   |   3:53PM    Phoenix, AZ

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit for the Planned Parenthood abortion business over a law pro-life Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed in April that would end the use of a state income tax credit for charitable contributions to abortion agency. The legislation also stop taxpayer-funded abortion training at colleges.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona and the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence banded together to file the lawsuit claiming the law infringes on First Amendment rights by excluding abortion-performing and abortion referral groups from the tax rebate program. The domestic violence group sues because it refers women who are victims of sexual assault to abortion centers rather than providing them pregnancy support and assistance.

The law was a response to a December 2010 report LifeNews.com issued revealing Planned Parenthood Arizona is promoting tax credits intended for organizations that assist poor state residents for donations that would benefit the abortion business. In a promotional, the southwestern abortion organization issued a fundraising appeal taking advantage of a federal tax rebate.

“Your generous donation can be applied to the Arizona Working Poor Tax Credit,” it says. “What this means to you is that, in addition to a federal tax deduction, if you itemize your deductions and you contribute to Planned Parenthood in Arizona, you may be eligible for a dollar-for dollar state tax credit.”

The tax credit, the abortion business says, can return “up to $200 for an individual filer and up to $400 for a married couple filing jointly.”

The Center for Arizona Policy, a pro-life group, drafted and supported this legislation that ensures that donations to organizations that provide, promote, or provide referrals for abortion do not qualify for the state’s Working Poor Tax Credit and the organization told LifeNews today the lawsuit is “misguided” in its claim that 1st Amendment rights are denied because Arizona is favoring human life over abortion. The group says the ACLU’s claims are in stark contrast to consistent precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court that government entities are allowed to create programs that support one type of behavior over another.

“There is no legitimate free speech issue here. Our nation’s highest court has said time and time again that government entities can offer benefits supporting childbirth over abortion,” said Center for Arizona Policy Legal Counsel Deborah Sheasby. “The longstanding public policy of our state is to promote life, and that is what HB 2384 does.”

“In passing this bill, the Legislature rightly said that abortion does not qualify as an ‘immediate basic need’ and is therefore not the type of service that the charitable tax credit is seeking to promote. This legislation will not block one woman from having an abortion if she chooses,” said Sheasby.

She said the Arizona state legislature created the tax credit program to promote its own policy of ensuring that citizens’ immediate basic needs are met. This is a narrowly-crafted program, with specific parameters, for which less than five hundred organizations qualify. There are thousands of non-profit organizations that do not qualify, and this does not create any constitutional problems.

According to the Arizona Department of Revenue, the tax credit is designed “for contributions that provide assistance to the working poor.”

“Services is defined as cash assistance, medical care, child care, food, clothing, shelter, job placement and job training services or any other assistance that is reasonably necessary to meet immediate basic needs and that is provided and used in this state,” it says.

The tax credit fundraising appeal was posted on the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona web blog, which is the political arm of Planned Parenthood Arizona, which makes the tax credit-based appeal appear even less likely to meet the criteria for which it was intended.  The ADR web site providing a list of qualified recipients merely lists “Planned Parenthood” as eligible.

The PPAA web site specifically indicates it “promote[s] a political agenda” that involves “educating voters, public officials and candidates for office.”