Cathi Herrod's Center for Arizona Policy Hates Gays, Abortions, and Likes to Tell Politicians What to Do

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In 1995, Munsil began his 10-year-plus run as CAP's president, with Herrod starting as a volunteer, then becoming its full-time lobbyist.

CAP scored significant victories on the abortion front, including requiring parental consent for minors seeking abortions, a ban on partial-birth abortions (though this was overturned by the courts), and a law prohibiting physician assistants from performing surgical abortions.

But pro-choice Democrat Janet Napolitano's accession to governor in 2003 was the beginning of a six-year dry spell for CAP. Napolitano vetoed a string of CAP-sponsored bills that would have limited access to abortion.

Munsil and CAP fumed that Napolitano was "out of touch" with mainstream Arizonans.

However, Munsil's disastrous run for governor in 2006 signaled that he was the one who was out of touch. (Munsil currently is president of Arizona Christian University in Phoenix.)

Election year 2008 saw a shift in CAP's fortunes. The electorate approved a revised constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

And the election of Barack Obama as president meant his supporter Napolitano soon would be on her way to Washington.

In 2009, Napolitano was tapped to be Homeland Security secretary. Her successor, Jan Brewer, a Republican and avowedly anti-abortion, was much more to CAP's liking.

During Brewer's governorship, CAP arguably attained the zenith of its influence over public policy when it came to abortion.

A new CAP-backed partial-birth abortion ban became law and was upheld by the courts.

With Brewer's signature practically in its pocket, CAP scored laws requiring a 24-hour wait for abortion-seekers, mandatory ultrasounds, and a law preventing all non-doctors from performing abortions.

Even CAP proposals that state lawmakers believed would be overturned in court were approved, such as a ban on abortions after 20 weeks and a law preventing Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funding.

And, as anticipated, both efforts later were overturned in federal court.

Planned Parenthood of Arizona CEO Bryan Howard claims CAP's anti-abortion efforts have turned back the healthcare clock a decade in Arizona, forcing Planned Parenthood to limit some of its services and making women travel farther and endure hardships to get the medical attention they need.

"CAP can frame this any way it wants," Howard tells New Times. "But the practical effect is that it's harder for women in Arizona to get reproductive healthcare than it used to be. That's primarily through CAP's leadership."

Howard says Planned Parenthood's Flagstaff office has seen a 40 percent dip in patients coming from northern counties. The new restrictions caused Planned Parenthood to shutter its Yuma clinic.

CAP has adopted a strategy of incrementally limiting access to abortion, birth control, and prenatal services, says Howard, and it and Cathi Herrod have "legitimized dishonesty" in the legislative process.

"Herrod frames everything in a very disingenuous lens of affecting women's health," he observes.

Herrod's my-way-or-the-highway attitude on abortion and other issues has ticked off Arizona Republicans as well.

Campaign and policy guru Chuck Coughlin helped Jan Brewer get elected in 2010, and in 2012, put together the coalition that successfully passed the governor's Medicaid expansion.

Coughlin accused Herrod of attempting to undermine Medicaid expansion via the effort to refuse federal funds to Planned Parenthood, a move already deemed unconstitutional by the courts.

"I said to Cathi at the time, 'There are some people who are pro-life, like the governor, and there are some people who are anti-abortion, and that's you,'" Coughlin says.

He adds, "CAP's policy is to prohibit abortions — but not to care for those [children] once they are born."

Chuck Coughlin notes that, to some degree, CAP has become the victim of its success.

"We're one of the most anti-abortion states in the country," Coughlin says, "one of the states where it's most difficult to receive an abortion, and that's really [CAP's] agenda.

"Now they're moving into other areas, where it's uncertain ground, where the policy matrix is a bit more complicated."

Such as with SB 1062, which pitted ideology and religion against the economic interests of the state.

Many Republican lawmakers will talk about Herrod and CAP only off the record, for fear of reprisal.

"Herrod has a lot of influence over a lot of elected officials in different levels of government," one GOPer says. "So if you vote 'no' on a bill she wants, you're gonna catch a lot of crap from everyone from [former U.S. Senator] Jon Kyl to [Maricopa County Attorney] Bill Montgomery."

This legislator describes Herrod — a middle-aged woman with two grown children and a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin — as a "true believer who surrounds herself with true believers."

And as you might expect from the leader of a powerful evangelical organization, Herrod is comfortable speaking from a pulpit, citing chapter and verse to the faithful and describing her and CAP's work in biblical language.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons