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Ariz. Sends Surprise Abortion Clinic Inspections Bill to Gov.

Ariz. Sends Surprise Abortion Clinic Inspections Bill to Gov.

April 10, 2014 — The Arizona Senate on Wednesday approved a bill (HB 2284) that would allow the state to conduct unannounced abortion clinic inspections without a warrant, Reuters reports (Schwartz, Reuters, 4/9).

The bill -- proposed by state Rep. Debbie Lesko (R) and championed by the conservative Center for Arizona Policy -- would eliminate a requirement that the state Department of Health Services obtain an administrative warrant before unannounced inspections at any of the state's nine abortion clinics. It also would require clinics to report to the state if "an infant is born alive after a botched abortion."

In February, the state House approved the bill (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/28).

Bill Heads to Gov. Brewer

The measure now proceeds to Gov. Jan Brewer (R), who has five days to decide whether to sign it into law (Reuters, 4/9).

According to the Arizona Daily Star, Brewer said Wednesday that she does not comment on legislation before reading it, but she acknowledged that she has approved every antiabortion-rights bill that has come to her desk. "I am pro-life, and I believe that we have done a good job in Arizona," she said (Fischer, Arizona Daily Star, 4/9).

If enacted, the law would make Arizona the 11th state to authorize unannounced searches without a warrant, according to the Guttmacher Institute (Reuters, 4/9).

Opponents Expect To Challenge Law

Planned Parenthood Arizona President Bryan Howard said the legislation will likely end up in court if signed into law, noting an earlier case in which an identical provision was overturned as unconstitutional.

According to the Daily Star, a federal appeals court in 2004 struck down the identical law, ruling that the "boundless, warrantless search of physicians' offices" by state officials would violate constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. In response, the state agreed to a plan under which it would first obtain a warrant.

However, state Sen. Nancy Barto (R) said that the 2004 ruling is no longer binding because it was issued when Arizona did not regulate abortion clinics. The state enacted comprehensive clinic regulations in 2010, according to the Daily Star (Arizona Daily Star, 4/9).

Comments

Barto said the bill is "not about pro-life or pro-choice," but rather about "protecting the lives of women and children" (Reuters, 4/9). She argued that the bill merely closes a legal loophole, saying, "Abortion clinics are the only health-care institutions in the state that are not subject to unannounced inspection" (Arizona Daily Star, 4/9).

Meanwhile, state Sen. Olivia Bedford (D) said that the bill would restrict abortion access by legalizing excessive interference with abortion clinics. "This bill simply opens the door for abuse and does nothing to keep women safe," she said, adding, "In fact, it's just another harassment tool the supporters are pushing to force a lawsuit" (Reuters, 4/9).