By Daniel Stefanski |
An Arizona Republican’s legislative proposal to enhance protections for pregnant women is meeting resistance from Democrats – and created an interesting exchange in a Senate committee last week.
HB 2427, sponsored by Representative Matt Gress, deals with sentencing standards for domestic violence against pregnant victims. According to the purpose of the bill provided by the State Senate, HB 2427 “classifies, as aggravated assault punishable as a class 3 felony, assault against a pregnant victim if the person knows or has reason to know the victim is pregnant and circumstances exist that classify the offense as domestic violence.”
In January, this legislation passed the House Judiciary Committee with a 5-2 vote (with one Democrat voting ‘present’). It later passed the Arizona House at the end of February with a party-line 31-28 vote (one Democrat not voting). The Arizona House Democrats strongly warned about this bill before it was approved by that chamber, writing, “Bad bills heading to the House floor this morning: Rep. Matt Gress’ attempt to sneak extreme anti-abortion fetal personhood language into domestic violence and child support statutes. Don’t be fooled, HB2502 and HB2427 are about entrenching ideological language into law.”
After voting for the bill, Republican Representative Austin Smith tweeted: “You shouldn’t harm pregnant women. All Democrats voted NO on Matthew Gress’s HB2427.”
Last week, HB 2427 was considered in the Senate Judiciary Committee and led to a noteworthy exchange between a member and a witness. The chairman of this committee, Senator Anthony Kern, asked a witness if men could get pregnant – and received an answer in the affirmative. He then pressed the witness to give her definition of a “woman” but received pushback from the witness and his colleagues on the other side of the aisle for the relevance of that question. The witness finally answered that “there are people who identify as different genders who are capable of getting pregnant” and added that she was not going to “feed into the bigotry of that question.”
The Arizona Senate Republican Caucus wasted no time in responding to what they had heard in the committee, saying: “During testimony given at committee today on HB2427, there seems to be confusion over which gender can have a baby. HB2427 would increase penalties on those guilty of domestic violence against PREGNANT WOMEN. This is the difference between Republicans and Democrats.”
Senator Mitzi Epstein voted no on the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee and explained that she was against the legislation because she had heard from people who help victims of domestic violence that this bill could “make some victims more hesitant to call for help because it makes the penalties worse for their partners.” She subsequently noted her desire to protect “people” who are vulnerable.
Representatives from the Secular Coalition for Arizona, Arizona Center for Women’s Advancement, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, AZ National Organization for Women, and the American Civil Liberties Union of AZ all registered in opposition to HB 2427 during the ongoing legislative process.
Senator Kern had the final word – both in committee and on Twitter, writing: ALERT: The democrat left says men ‘can’ get pregnant, and they ‘cannot’ define what a woman is. TRUTH: Men cannot get pregnant and real MEN protect real WOMEN!”
HB 2427 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with a 4-3 partisan vote, and is expected to be considered by the full chamber in the near future. It is assuredly dead on arrival with Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs should the Senate pass the legislation onto the Ninth Floor of the Arizona Executive Tower.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.