Protection Of Pregnant Women Bill Sparks Interesting Exchange

Protection Of Pregnant Women Bill Sparks Interesting Exchange

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.

Pima County Offering Mental Health Services To Minors Without Parental Consent

Pima County Offering Mental Health Services To Minors Without Parental Consent

By Corinne Murdock |

This past week, Pima County began offering mental health services for minors without parental consent required, through a new program called “Not Alone.” Arizona law requires written or oral consent of a parent or legal guardian prior to a minor receiving mental health screenings or treatments. 

Children under 13 years old must have their parents reach out to join the program. However, the program states that children 13 years old and older may obtain services without parental consent. 

The program also will withhold information from parents. Clinicians won’t disclose information about a minor’s sexuality or gender identity, or any “consensual” sexual activity for minors aged 14 through 17, and will only inform parents if their child engages in a new form of self-harm.

Only in cases of suicidal intent, sexual or physical abuse, or expressed intent and planning to harm another then the program disclosed that a clinician will break confidentiality — but the program’s confidentiality protocols didn’t explicitly state that clinicians would inform parents.

According to the Parents’ Bill of Rights, the “liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health of their children is a fundamental right” (emphasis added). Statute also dictates that attempts to “encourage or coerce a minor child to withhold information from the child’s parent shall be grounds for discipline[.]” Pima County’s webpage for the new program encourages those 13 years old or older to independently contact the program partner, COPE Community Services, for help, information, or “just to talk.” The program also offers to come meet minors wherever they’re located to assist them, or to work with them virtually.

The Pima County Health Department announced the program, “Not Alone,” last Thursday. The program receives existing Epidemiology Laboratory Capacity (ELC) K-12 Schools Reopening Grant funding provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS). 

The program specifically offers mental health services for both students and teachers diagnosed with COVID-19 after May 2021. Initial public statements on the program implied that the threat and experience of disease itself, and not the mitigation strategies such as forced school closures and distance learning, caused mental duress. 

Theresa Cullen, the department director recently rejected by the Arizona legislature in her nomination by Gov. Katie Hobbs to lead the Department of Health Services, described the program in a letter as necessary to not only combat suicidal ideation in students but “compassion fatigue” for teachers.

“According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide remains the third leading cause of death for adolescents and 1 in 3 high school students reported that their mental health was not good. Teachers and staff often experience compassion fatigue, stress, and anxiety,” stated Cullen. “The ‘Not Alone’ campaign is designed to provide brief intervention treatment services for K-12 students and school faculty who have tested positive for COVID-19 since May 1, 2021,” stated Cullen.

Cullen was first appointed to the Pima County Health Department in June 2020. Senate Republicans called Cullen’s administration “repressive,” citing the curfew she imposed as one example, and noting that her policies to mitigate COVID-19 weren’t supported by science.

Overseeing the program is Matthew Schmidgall and Michael Webb, part of the department’s Youth and School Communities program. The program will also partner with several school districts to deploy an advertising campaign through social media, movie theaters, billboards, and radio.

The program also receives partnership assistance through pop star Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation. The nonprofit offers a free mental health course online that awards a certificate upon completion, the “Be There Certificate,” which asks an individual which gender they “identify with,” with the option to select multiple genders and identities and if they’re transgender.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Ousted ASU Hockey Player Goes Viral For Pushing Woman’s Wheelchair Down Stairs

Ousted ASU Hockey Player Goes Viral For Pushing Woman’s Wheelchair Down Stairs

By Corinne Murdock |

A former Arizona State University (ASU) hockey player went viral for a video that depicts him pushing a woman’s wheelchair down the stairs at a bar in Pennsylvania. He is now under investigation by his current university for the act.

The player, Carson Briere, now plays for Mercyhurst University’s team in Erie, Pennsylvania. ASU’s hockey team dismissed Briere after the 2019-20 season, his first, due to violations of undisclosed team rules. Briere admitted in an interview with College Hockey News that his dismissal was due to “too much partying.” ASU has consistently ranked as one of the top party schools in the nation over the years.

“I was just going out; I wasn’t taking hockey seriously. It wasn’t anything bad, it was just not being committed to hockey, I was more committed to having fun at school,” said Briere. “Too much partying, that’s probably the best way to put it.”

The individual who posted the video claimed to know the owner of the wheelchair. The user disclosed that the wheelchair owner was a woman who had to leave her chair at the top of the stairs and be carried down the stairs to reach the restrooms.

According to the original poster, the wheelchair owner reportedly plans to take legal action.

Briere’s father is Daniel Briere, a former NHL hockey player and interim general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers. The elder Briere began his career in Phoenix with the Coyotes, where Briere was born. Briere committed to ASU in 2019. 

The original poster behind the viral post helped organize a GoFundMe to raise funds for a new wheelchair. As of this report, the crowdfunding effort had raised over double its $1,500 goal.  

Later the same day after the video was posted, Mercyhurst University issued a statement promising an investigation.

“Late this afternoon, Mercyhurst University became aware of a disturbing video in which one of our student-athletes is seen pushing an unoccupied wheelchair down a flight of stairs at a local establishment,” stated the university. “Our Office of Student Conduct and Department of Police and Safety are investigating.”

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Teachers Union Group Falsely Claimed That Public Schools Don’t Discriminate

Teachers Union Group Falsely Claimed That Public Schools Don’t Discriminate

By Corinne Murdock |

Save Our Schools Arizona (SOSAZ), a teachers union activist group, falsely claimed that public schools don’t discriminate.

SOSAZ claimed that the state’s universal school choice program was “taxpayer-funded hate” targeting LGBTQ+ children and families. They then claimed that public schools are accepting of all students.

“Public schools accept ALL students, which is why public funds belong in public schools,” stated SOSAZ.

Former Senate President Karen Fann responded to SOSAZ with a reminder that public schools do discriminate against Christians. Fann was likely alluding to the controversy with Washington Elementary School District (WESD), in which governing board member Tamillia Valenzuela — a self-identified neurodivergent queer furry — led a crusade to purge Christians from WESD. 

“Wrong but we do know some public schools don’t like Christian teachers,” wrote Fann.

Valenzuela said during a board meeting last month that Arizona Christian University (ACU) didn’t align with WESD priorities because of their Christian beliefs. As a result, WESD terminated its contract with ACU to have university students complete their teaching and practical coursework at one of WESD’s campuses.

After the board voted to end its contract with ACU, Valenzuela published a celebratory post.

“I am so happy to announce that our board unanimously decided to no longer continue the partnership with Arizona Christian University,” said Valenzuela. “Thank you to our community members who made their voices heard.”

SOSAZ responded to Fann by condemning Christian schools who don’t enroll students that advocate for or practice sinful lifestyles such as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, bestiality, incest, pornography, and transgenderism. SOSAZ specifically highlighted Dream City Christian School, launched through Turning Point Academy Association and Valley Christian Schools.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) sued WESD last week for its contract cancellation with ACU, alleging unconstitutional religious discrimination. ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman asserted that WESD was forcing ACU to choose between its religious beliefs and career opportunities for its students.

“Washington Elementary School District officials are causing irreparable harm to ACU every day they force it to choose between its religious beliefs and partnering with the area’s public schools,” said Cortman.

During last Thursday’s board meeting, Valenzuela claimed that those opposed to her crusade against Christians were actually bullying LGBTQ+ students. Valenzuela also claimed that sexuality exploration fulfilled one’s humanity, and that true Christianity accepted sin. 

“There is a difference between acceptance and tolerance, and members of our society have been merely accepted, merely tolerated for their existence. We have watched as our children have been bullied for having autonomy,” said Valenzuela. “Know what Christ’s teachings were: it was love, it was acceptance. It was not cursing people out on Facebook and Twitter, it was not spreading misinformation.”

Valenzuela was also responsible for having all board members put their preferred pronouns — in English and Spanish — underneath their names on the dais. On her board member Facebook page, Valenzuela advocated for GLSEN: the organization attempting to sexualize minors.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Petersen And Toma Challenge Hobbs’ Death Penalty Decision

Petersen And Toma Challenge Hobbs’ Death Penalty Decision

By Daniel Stefanski |

Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs’ propensity for politically motivated decisions continues to lead to drawn-out fights with the Republican-led Legislature.

On Wednesday, Republican legislative leaders, Senate President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma, filed an amicus brief with the Arizona Supreme Court over the governor’s controversial action to halt the execution of Aaron Brian Gunches.

A press release from the State Senate Republican Caucus stated that “the legislative leaders filed an amicus brief with the Arizona Supreme Court to support the victim’s sister, who submitted a petition for special action last week asking the court to direct the Governor to carry out the warrant issued earlier in the month to execute Gunches.”

In announcing his filing with the state’s high court, President Petersen said, “Right now, victims’ rights protected under the Arizona Constitution are being threatened by the Governor and the Attorney General. It’s incredibly disturbing to see them unwilling to enforce the law and are siding with the most vile individuals convicted of carrying out the most heinous crimes in our state. Furthermore, the Executive Branch is clearly undermining the very foundation of separation of powers by attempting to override the statutory process adopted by the Legislature and affirmed by the Judiciary. This is a dangerous precedent to set by our newly elected Governor.”

The Senate President and the House Speaker argue that “the Governor’s unilateral executive decision threatens bedrock principles of separation of powers by usurping the statutory process established by the Legislature and affirmed by the Judiciary,” that “the decision willfully defies this Court’s mandatory order – signaling to all Arizonans that the Governor is not subject to this Court’s jurisdiction and is, in fact, above the law,” that “the Governor has effectively provided a reprieve of Gunches; death sentence without complying with the statutory limitations on her limited clemency power,” and that “the Governor’s action violates Arizona’s Victim’s Bill of Rights, stripping the victim, Ted Price’s sister, of any finality in this decades-old murder case.”

Senate President Pro Tempore, T.J. Shope, signaled his approval of the court filing, writing, “I agree 100% with President Warren Petersen on this. If we are truly caring less about the victim and their family than the criminal, we are in for years of pain and high crime.”

Petersen and Toma conclude their filing with the following plea for the Arizona Supreme Court to force the state to execute the condemned murderer: “Absent clear and specific delegation of authority from the Legislature or the Judiciary, the Executive cannot rule by fiat and choose which statutes or court orders to follow. The Governor’s actions here set a dangerous precedent, opening a Pandora’s Box and inviting litigation every time she disagrees with a jury’s verdict, a court order, or other statutory mandates passed by the Legislature.”

The saga over Gunches execution started in late-2022, when former Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked the Arizona Supreme Court for a warrant of execution. After the January 2 transition of power to Katie Hobbs and new Attorney General Kris Mayes, the state desperately attempted to reverse the actions that set Gunches’ execution process into motion. These efforts proved to be unsuccessful, however, when the high court did, in fact, grant the warrant of execution, ordering the state to put Gunches to death on April 6. The governor refused to comply with the court-issued warrant, stating that the State would not be seeking to carry out the execution at this time. Hobbs’ decision triggered court filings from Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell and Petersen and Toma.

The Arizona Supreme Court is expected to take expedient action in this case with a life and a court-imposed date of execution hanging in the balance.

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

Teachers Union Protests Parent Hotline For Reporting Inappropriate Materials

Teachers Union Protests Parent Hotline For Reporting Inappropriate Materials

By Corinne Murdock |

On Wednesday, the state’s teachers union protested against the Arizona Department of Education’s newly-launched hotline for parents to report inappropriate class materials.

The Arizona Education Association (AEA) had educators and activists march around the state capitol and ADE building, holding signs and chanting. Some signs read, “Stand with Educators,” and “Stop the Attacks.”

AEA also issued a letter on Wednesday to ADE Superintendent Tom Horne. The activists delivered a copy of the letter to the ADE office following a short speech outside the building. The AEA characterized the hotline as another political game.

The body of the letter is reproduced below:

Consider this an open invitation to visit Arizona schools and meet with educators. Come see for yourself the hard work, expertise and passion that go into each day. The constant attacks, along with low wages and underfunded classrooms, are causing far too many of our colleagues to leave the profession and the state. Our students and our schools deserve better. Take down the ‘hotline.’ Stop the attacks and stand with us.

Horne told Fox News on Wednesday that he was aware of the hotline’s unpopularity with certain groups, and criticized the teachers that participated in the protest. The superintendent implied that those teachers protesting were opposed to transparency and accountability.

“I served 24 years on a school board, and our rule was anybody could come in and watch the teaching, and the teachers never complained because they were proud of what they were doing, so those who are protesting, maybe they are not so proud of what they’re doing,” said Horne.

ADE launched the hotline last Tuesday. The department clarified in a corresponding press release what qualified as inappropriate school lessons: those focused on race or ethnicity, rather than individuals or merit; promoting gender ideology; social-emotional learning (SEL); or sexual content. ADE cited our reporting as an example of those committed to teaching inappropriate materials, in which AZ Free News documented over 200 educators who signed onto a statement proclaiming that they would teach outlawed materials like Critical Race Theory (CRT) even if banned.

ADE stated that the hotline represented their administration’s commitment to transparency and empowering parents.

Under former Superintendent Kathy Hoffman, ADE’s commitment to transparency looked slightly different. As AZ Free News reported in January, the former administration neglected the state’s school choice program: it had less than one-third of the staff designed to run the program and nearly 171,600 unfulfilled expense requests, despite receiving millions in additional funding for hiring and operation expansions.

AEA President Marisol Garcia claimed that the hotline would invite harassment of educators, and allow for accusations to be vulnerable to open records requests.

“Inviting the harassment of educators, without due process at their local level, with the ability of these ‘accusations’ to be FOIA’d?” asked Garcia. “As if nothing bad is going to happen here?”

Teachers union members and supporters filled the Capitol following the march.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to