On Monday, a group of medical professionals including two abortion providers, their respective clinics, and an OB/GYN who does not provide abortions asked a federal court to block enforcement of new state restrictions on abortion that would significantly reduce women’s access to abortion services in Arizona and put physicians at risk of losing their licenses. The law prevents women from obtaining abortions in one day, instead requiring them to make two separate trips to a physician’s office: first, to hear state-mandated information in person and then, after waiting twenty-four hours, to obtain their abortions. And one part of the new law is so vaguely written that it would also prohibit a doctor from receiving payment for any medical service from a patient who inquires about abortion until after he or she has received abortion counseling, regardless of whether she seeks an abortion.
“This law will have a serious impact on women’s ability to obtain abortions in Arizona,” said Suzanne Novak, senior staff attorney in U.S. Legal Program of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Women are more than capable of making their own decisions regarding their reproductive health and this law does nothing to inform them. Rather, it makes obtaining an abortion a difficult, or even impossible, challenge for some women and will threaten the health and safety of many women seeking abortions.”
Requiring a woman to make two separate trips to a healthcare provider – one to receive the mandated oral information and one for the procedure – imposes an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose abortion and jeopardizes her health. This two-trip requirement would prevent some women from getting an abortion altogether and cause others to significantly delay the procedure, appreciably increasing health risks and costs. The new abortion restrictions in this law would also increase the risk of abuse for some women seeking abortions, and cause or increase psychological harm to some women who seek abortions, and make it difficult or impossible for some women to keep their abortions confidential. Women who are physically sick, women pregnant as a result of rape or incest, women in abusive relationships, and low-income women are especially vulnerable.
In an unusual twist, Arizona’s new law goes as far as to regulate physicians who don’t provide abortions. The law would prohibit a physician or any healthcare provider from charging for any services provided to a patient who has inquired about abortion until twenty-four hours after the patient has received the required informed consent counseling, even if the patient has no plans to seek an abortion. Any physician, including physicians who provide only referrals for abortions, but do not provide or perform abortions themselves, would be at risk of losing their license for failing to comply with this vague and confusing provision.
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The Center for Reproductive Rights filed Tucson Women’s Center v. Arizona Medical Board in the U.S. District Court of Arizona on behalf of Tucson’s Woman’s Center, Dr. William Richardson, Family Planning Associates, Dr. Paul Isaacson, and Dr. Frank Laudonio.