August 19, 2011 — Planned Parenthood of Arizona on Thursday announced that it is ending abortion services in three cities to comply with recently enacted state laws, the AP/Washington Post reports. Starting Friday, women will no longer be able to seek abortion services -- including medication abortion -- at Planned Parenthood clinics in Prescott Valley, Flagstaff and Yuma, though they still can visit clinics in the Tuscan and Phoenix area for surgical and medication abortion care (AP/Washington Post, 8/18).
The move comes after the Arizona Court of Appeals allowed parts of a 2009 law restricting abortion access to take effect. A lower court judge had issued a preliminary injunction against provisions that banned anyone except physicians from performing surgical abortions; required a physician to meet in person with the patient at least 24 hours before the procedure; required notarized parental consent for minor; and allowed pharmacists and other medical professionals to refuse to provide abortion or contraceptive services.
The appeals court ruled that requiring a licensed physician to perform abortions does not impose an undue burden on women's constitutional right to abortion. The fact that a law may place some burden on women is not enough for it to be struck down, the court said. Judge Peter Swann, who wrote the unanimous opinion, said it is not legally relevant that nurse practitioners are specifically trained to provide abortion procedures, are available in rural areas without doctors and have a comparable safety record to doctors. In addition, the judges disagreed that a telephone consultation prior to obtaining abortion care is sufficient "informed consent."
The preliminary injunction will remain in place to allow Planned Parenthood of Arizona to decide whether to appeal and for the Arizona Supreme Court to decide whether to review the case (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/12).
PPAZ President Bryan Howard said the state has "really done women a disservice in all parts of the state by imposing rules that have no medical significance and just creating barriers." He added that the organization likely will appeal the ruling to the Arizona Supreme Court.
Dave Cole, solicitor general for the state attorney general's office, said the state would defer decisions about the law to the judge (AP/Washington Post, 8/18).
ACLU, Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence File Suit Against Tax Credit Prohibition
In related Arizona news, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence on Thursday filed a lawsuit in an Arizona federal court against a state law that prohibits the use of state income tax credits for charitable donations to PPAZ or other groups that offer or refer for abortion services, the AP/Washington Examiner reports. The organizations have asked the court to declare the law unconstitutional and to prevent it from taking effect in December (AP/Washington Examiner, 8/18).
Under the law, donors to charitable organizations can only get a tax credit for their donation if the charity has provided a statement to the Department of Revenue that they do not provide, fund, promote or provide referrals for abortions, and do not fund any entity that does. The law also forbids the use of any state or federal funds, as well as tuition and fees, to train medical professionals to provide abortion services (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/13).