June 10, 2013 — An Arizona antiabortion-rights group is pushing lawmakers to pass legislation that would allow the state Department of Health Services to conduct unannounced inspections of abortion clinics without a warrant, the Arizona Republic reports (Beard Rau, Arizona Republic, 6/6).
It is unclear how the measure could make it through the Legislature this session, given that lawmakers are expected to finalize a budget and adjourn in the coming days, according to the AP/San Francisco Chronicle (Christie, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 6/6).
Background on Inspection Laws
A federal appeals court in 2004 voided a 1999 state law allowing abortion clinic inspections without a warrant. The court said the law was too broad and gave the state unauthorized access to patient information (Arizona Republic, 6/6).
Under a 2010 federal court agreement, the state is allowed to perform inspections of abortion clinic after obtaining a warrant (Fischer, Arizona Daily Star, 6/7). The Department of Health Services can conduct inspections without a warrant at all other medical facilities in the state (Arizona Republic, 6/6).
Cathi Herrod, president of the antiabortion-rights group Center for Arizona Policy, is working with state Sen. Nancy Barto (R) to develop this year's proposal (Arizona Daily Star, 6/7). According to the Republic, the proposal might be tacked on to an existing bill during a floor vote (Arizona Republic, 6/7).
Response to Proposal
Bryan Howard -- president of Planned Parenthood Arizona -- said Herrod suggested the legislation late in the session because her group "understands that its proposals cannot withstand the scrutiny of public hearings" (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 6/6).
Howard said warrants are needed before inspections "given the hostility of some political figures to the services we provide, and the disruption that our patients would face if they were subject to an unannounced inspection for no reason." He noted that the state has taken only one enforcement action against an abortion facility in the last five years.
Howard argued that instead of ending the warrant requirement for abortion facilities, other medical institutions should have similar protections (Arizona Daily Star, 6/7).
Herrod said she is not trying to avoid public hearings on the proposal, adding that the proposal was prompted by the case of illegal abortion provider Kermit Gosnell and an undercover video by an antiabortion-rights group (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 6/6).