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GOP blocks vote on bills to protect Arizona access to contraceptives

House and Senate Republicans used their rules Wednesday to block a vote — or even a debate — on a proposal to enshrine the right to contraceptives in Arizona law.

State Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton complained that her HB 2678 never was given a hearing. It would create a law saying that individuals have the right to obtain "any drug, device or biological product intended for use in the prevention of pregnancy.'' And the measure lists various items that would be protected, ranging from oral contraceptives to mechanical devices.

But Stahl Hamilton could not get Rep. Steve Montenegro, R-Goodyear, who chairs the House Committee on Health and Human Services, to give it a hearing. And House rules say bills can't get to the floor without committee action

So the Tucson Democrat made a motion Wednesday to create a temporary rule to allow her to bring her measure directly to the floor and give it an up-or-down vote. She said this is a "special instance'' that requires special treatment.

"Why I think it's a good idea is that this bill is one of the ways in which our voices are heard,'' Stahl Hamilton said, surrounded on the floor by other Democratic women in the House.

"And our people are representative,'' she said. "And right now, the topic of this bill is so important that I believe it deserves a hearing.''

Stahl Hamilton also said the case is relevant if the U.S. Supreme Court revisits a case known as Griswold, which said the use of contraceptives falls within the "zone of privacy'' protected by the Bill of Rights. Putting a right to contraceptives into Arizona law would make any decision by the Supreme Court to overturn Griswold legally irrelevant in the state.

"It is a topic that deserves robust conversation,'' she said. "And it is a topic that most of the people in Arizona support.''

But House Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci said the merits of the legislation are irrelevant.

"There's a process in this House,'' said the Lake Havasu City Republican. "And there's a way for bills to go through in this House,'' he said. "And this is not how it's done.''
The result was a party-line vote to reject Stahl Hamilton's bid to suspend the rules.

In the Senate, Sen. Priya Sundareshan, D-Tucson, could not get Sen. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, to schedule a hearing on her identically worded SB 1362 in the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. And her attempt to force a full Senate vote on the issue fared no better.

"Access to reproductive health care is a fundamental right that should not be questioned or changed by government,'' said Sen. Christine Marsh, D-Phoenix.

Foes of the legislation to provide a right to contraception have argued the measure is unnecessary, pointing out no bills have been introduced this year to curb access. But Marsh pointed out that isn't keeping Republicans from advancing their own proposals for problems that don't exist.

Blocking the votes drew criticism from Gov. Katie Hobbs, who is in support of such a law.

"The majority just showed they are out of touch with Arizonans,'' said press aide Christian Slater. And he said it's not just about contraception.

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