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.

U.S. Lawmakers Hear Of Mounting Costs And Frustrations To Yuma Area Residents

U.S. Lawmakers Hear Of Mounting Costs And Frustrations To Yuma Area Residents

By Terri Jo Neff |

It was a hearing two years in the making, but for government officials, business leaders, and nonprofit operators in Yuma County the sentiment toward the recent field hearing conducted by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee was better late than never.

On Feb. 24, Committee Chairman Jim Jordan led a 14-member delegation to Yuma to hear testimony about how the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has responded to the southwest border crisis that began two years ago when President Joe Biden took office. 

The delegation came on the heels of a border visit earlier this month by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and three freshman representatives who were hosted by Rep. Juan Ciscomani (R-AZ6) in Cochise County, in the southeast corner of the state.

The Yuma trip, however, focused on evidence of how the federal response to the ongoing border crisis in Arizona’s southwest corner has created economic challenges and public health threats.

It also led a recently retired high ranking U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) official to freely speak out on the crisis while others addressed the hard dollar costs of providing free foodstuff and medical care to tens of thousands of migrants.

Dr. Robert Trenschel, president and CEO of Yuma Regional Medical Center, described the $26 million price tag for uncompensated health care provided in 2022 to thousands of illegal immigrants who have besieged Yuma County.

“Migrant patients are receiving free care,” Trenschel noted. “We cannot provide completely free care to the residents of our community so the situation is not fair and is understandably concerning to them.”

Trenschel explained that some migrants have required intensive treatment such as  dialysis and heart surgery. He added that discharging migrants after treatment is further complicated by the fact they don’t have access to the necessary post-release equipment and follow-up.

“And when babies are born, they may have to stay in the intensive care unit for a month because of the complications of their situation,” Trenschel said, adding many of the mothers had not had adequate prenatal care.

All of the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee skipped the trip to Yuma, calling it a “stunt hearing.”  The lack of bipartisan interest was noted by former USBP Yuma Sector Chief Chris Clem, who was the top USBP official in the area from December 2020 to December 2022 until he retired.   

“I think that it should’ve been a bipartisan hearing down here because in order to solve a border security and immigration crisis, we need to involve the community, the experts, the business community,” Clem said of Thursday’s hearing. “That takes everybody and so that means everybody that is represented and their representatives need to be here.”

Clem added that because immigration is a socioeconomic issue, “it requires all sides of the aisle to address.”

The threat to Yuma County’s agriculture powered economy was also addressed by an unexpected voice – Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot.

Wilmot spoke of how USBP apprehensions in his border county went from about 40 a day prior to President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January 2021 to more than 1,000 on some days last year. He also shed a light on the economic and public health issues associated with the border crisis.

According to Wilmot, Yuma County supplies 90 percent of the leafy greens consumed in the U.S. during the winter. But those fields as well as the water needed to support agriculture in the area is being increasingly endangered from “tons of trash, pharmaceuticals, and biological waste” associated with border crossers along the Colorado River.

Terri Jo Neff is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or send her news tips here.