Proposal on Abortion Clinic Inspections Moves Forward in Ariz. House

June 12, 2013 — A proposal that would allow the Arizona Department of Health Services to conduct unannounced inspections of abortion clinics without a warrant is advancing in the state House after being added as an amendment to another bill (SB 1069), the Arizona Republic reports.

The amendment, which the House Appropriations Committee approved on Monday, also would require the state to audit clinics to ensure they are not using Medicaid funds for overhead costs like utilities and salaries.

Although lawmakers introduced most of the session's bills months ago, the antiabortion-rights group Center for Arizona Policy late last week made a last-minute push for the Legislature to consider the clinic inspection proposal.

Legal Concerns

Planned Parenthood Arizona President Bryan Howard pledged to challenge the measure in court if it becomes law (Rau, Arizona Republic, 6/11).

In 2004, a federal appeals court 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.

Under a 2010 federal court agreement, the state is allowed to perform inspections of abortion clinics after obtaining a warrant. The Department of Health Services can conduct inspections without a warrant at all other medical facilities in the state (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/10).

Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, said the court's ruling in 2004 no longer applies because the state at the time did not license or regulate abortion clinics, as it does now. "We believe this bill is entirely defensible in court," Herrod said.

However, Howard said the law likely would fail again in court because abortion clinics still need heightened privacy to protect patients and physicians -- a factor the court noted in its opinion.

Regarding the new proposal's provision on Medicaid funding, Herrod said it was worded to avoid legal issues that have arisen from a 2012 law (HB 2800) that bars public funding to organizations that also provide abortions. A judge struck down the law, but the state has appealed (Arizona Republic, 6/11).