WHITE MOUNTAINS — Snowflake attorney Jon Saline brought his anti-abortion crusade to Payson recently. He is running for for the Republican nomination in state house District 6.
He warned the Payson Tea Party that Arizona Democrats have “infanticide” bills ready to go should they tip the 31-29 balance in the House.
“We defend life at every stage – at the preborn stage and when the child is born. That is under attack heavily. They’ve decided if the mom doesn’t want this baby that is sitting in front of us breathing –we’ll just make it comfortable and let it die.” Later he indicated New York and Virginia have already adopted such laws.
In fact, those states have substantially reduced restrictions on third trimester abortions based on protecting the health of the mother. That includes abortions past the 21st or 24th week when a child often can survive outside the womb with intensive medical support. None of those laws would allow doctors to let a baby die once removed from the womb if the abortion left the baby intact.
Saline also decried sex education proposals as akin to state-sanctioned pornography, which infringes on the parent’s absolute right to control their child’s education. Only parental choice in schools, through things like private and religious schools, home school, online schooling and other options keeps the state from exercising “socialist” control over children.
“Our statutes and frankly the Supreme Court has said parents have a fundamental right to parent their children without government intrusion. The reason they have to identify it is that frankly it’s not in the Constitution, but they have said it is a fundamental right, like the fundamental right to privacy – which also is not named in the Constitution. We have schools saying we want to teach your kids one way or the other way and we don’t care what you think about that. We have schools that say, you can’t decide what your children are taught.”
He was apparently referring to an effort by the state board of education to change the rules that have virtually eliminated sex education in most schools in the state as well as updating state-approved curriculum. The proposal was hastily withdrawn after parents protested.
Saline is running for the House seat to be vacated by term-limited incumbent Rep. Bob Thorpe, who’s running for the 2020 Republican senate nomination in the same district against incumbent Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake). Head of the senate education committee, Sen. Allen also strongly opposed changes in the rules for sex education programs during her earlier appearance before the Payson Tea Party.
Saline said incumbent Rep. Walt Blackman recruited him to run for the open seat and he and Blackman both are alarmed at the possibility Democrats will win control of the House and loosen the state’s restrictions on abortion, especially in the third trimester.
The district has 124,000 residents, including parts of Coconino, Yavapai, Navajo and Gila counties. Republicans have a narrow registration advantage over Democrats, but Independents make up nearly a third of the registered voters. In the past, the Independents have tended to favor Republican candidates, but the district is considered one of the most competitive in the state. Republicans took all three seats in the last election, but by a narrow margin.
The population center of the district is in Flagstaff and Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans is seeking the Democratic nomination. She’s considered a strong candidate, which has alarmed Republican activists in the district.
In addition, Coconino County Supervisor Art Babbott is running as an Independent, which will greatly complicate the dynamics of the general election race for both parties.
Saline, an articulate defense attorney with an incisive way of talking and a quick sense of humor, is campaigning as an outspoken conservative, stressing things like sex education, abortion and gun rights. He makes almost no mention of more conventional state campaign issues, like wildfires, forest management, economic development, taxation, school funding and the criminal justice system.
He mostly stressed his belief that any abortion amounts to murder, citing the inconsistency of a law that allows prosecutors to lodge murder charges against anyone but the mother who causes a miscarriage at any stage of pregnancy. He said Democrats nationally and locally don’t care at all about the fetus and would remove all restrictions on abortion.
“Walt Blackman would tell you they’ll push five abortion bills – including an infanticide bill – as soon as they get power. Right now, we’re sitting at 31 to 29 in the House, if we lose a seat, that could flip. I heard Walt complain we have to have every representative there at every vote – if we don’t, they either tie or lose. That’s scary when you think about some of the bills coming up.”
Actually, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey can veto any bill that does make it through the legislature.
Saline couldn’t identify any of the Democratic abortion bills he said died in committee during the last session, but did cite the New York and Virginia laws as an example of what Democrats want to do.
Abortion activists hope that a reinforced conservative majority on the US Supreme Court will lead to a decision overturning Roe vs Wade, giving states much more latitude in banning or severely restricting abortion. That has injected abortion into national races. Some states have responded by making it much harder to get an abortion – others have loosened existing restrictions.
This year New York changed its law to guarantee women the right to an abortion in New York. The law gives women a largely unrestricted right to an abortion prior to 24 weeks gestation, the stage of development at which a baby can generally survive outside the womb. After 24 weeks, a woman can still get an abortion to protect here own “life or health” or in the cases of the “absence of fetal viability.” Either grounds would require a decision by a medical professional.
Previously, the law allowed a late-term abortion only to protect the mother’s life.
The new law also removes the restrictions on abortion from the criminal code and no longer requires an extra doctor during late term abortions to take care of the baby if it’s born alive. Such abortions were extremely rare under the old law. The federal Centers for Disease Control reports that 65 percent of abortions take in the first eight weeks of pregnancy and only 1 percent after 21 weeks. In New York City, 2 percent of abortions were performed after 21 weeks.
The not-yet-adopted Virginia law is similar.
Saline said Democrats will lift any restrictions on abortion should they gain power.
“These laws say, we’re going to give birth to this child – it can lie on its own – it’s a living separate entity — and we’re going to just kill it. Make it comfortable. Not feed it. Anything like that. I think you would have to say it is murder.”
He also strongly criticized the recent Red for Ed demonstrations by teachers, which shut down schools throughout the state when teachers demonstrated to support increased funding for Arizona schools. Teachers were demanding higher pay, more counselors and boosting per-student funding from among the lowest in the nation to somewhere close to the national average. The movement helped pressure the legislature into approving a three-year, 20 percent pay raise for teachers – which will still leave the state with some of the lowest teacher pay scales and largest class sizes in the country.
Saline said he was aligned with a group called Purple for Parents, which protested the teacher walkout. He said any protesting teacher who didn’t report to school should be fired.
“I believe the Red for Ed started out with a good idea and they were really trying to help the children. But it got twisted and changed – hijacked into ‘we need more pay for teachers.’ It got taken over by teacher’s unions who are looking for something else that’s not in the benefit of the children. Each teacher has a contract with the district – so the moment that they don’t fulfill their obligations they’ve breached their contract. Let’s replace them with someone who is going to fulfill their contract.”
Peter Aleshire covers county government and other topics for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach him at email@example.com