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Ariz. Gov. Brewer Signs Bill Allowing Surprise Inspections of Abortion Clinics

Ariz. Gov. Brewer Signs Bill Allowing Surprise Inspections of Abortion Clinics

April 16, 2014 — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) on Tuesday signed into law a bill (HB 2284) that allows the state to conduct unannounced abortion clinic inspections without a warrant, the Arizona Republic reports.

The measure will take effect 90 days after the current state legislative session closes, which could be as early as this week (Beard Rau, Arizona Republic, 4/15).

The new law -- proposed by state Rep. Debbie Lesko (R) and championed by the conservative Center for Arizona Policy -- eliminates 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 requires clinics to report to the state if "an infant is born alive after a botched abortion" (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/10).

In addition, the measure allows misdemeanor charges against any person who helps a minor circumvent parental consent laws to obtain an abortion.

It also includes a provision allowing county or city attorneys to defend the law if a future state attorney general declines to do so in the event of a legal challenge (Galvan, AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/15).

Comments

Brewer spokesperson Andrew Wilder said the law "will ensure that the Arizona Department of Health Services has the authority to appropriately protect the health and safety of all patients." Brewer did not comment on the signing, according to Reuters (Schwartz, Reuters, 4/15).

Planned Parenthood of Arizona President Bryan Howard said warrants are needed to protect patients. He argued that the law "creates circumstances for health care to be interrupted and patients to be harassed and certainly for their privacy to be violated in the absence of any demonstrated need" (Arizona Republic, 4/15).

He added, "We're not surprised that ... Brewer singed this bill. She has been hostile to women's health care, including abortion and family planning, since the day she took office" (Reuters, 4/15).

Dispute Over Legality

According to the Republic, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona are deciding whether to file a legal challenge against the law, which they have called unconstitutional (Arizona Republic, 4/15).

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

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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/10).

CAP legal counsel Josh Kredit said he believes the law will survive a legal challenge because the court previously ruled that "to be able to have unannounced inspections, you have to have a closely-regulated industry" and CAP believes "that abortions are now closely regulated."

However, Howard noted, "The federal court has recognized that women receiving abortion health care have a heightened expectation of privacy that would be put at risk under the best of circumstances" (Arizona Republic, 4/15). He added, "We continue to believe that the legislation violates the rules governing abortion clinic inspections to which the state specifically agreed in 2010. It's on that basis that we expect a legal challenge" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/15).