News Abortion

Arizona Abortion Legislation May Stop Three Clinics From Performing Abortions

Robin Marty

A new rule requiring all abortions must be performed by a doctor may force three clinics to stop offering them all together.

When it comes to handing a woman a pill that will cause an abortion, there’s no reason why a certified doctor needs to be the one to physically give it to the patient. But a new law in Arizona has declared otherwise, and as a result, three local clinics may no longer be able to provide abortions.

Think Progress reports:

The new laws extend all the requirements for a surgical abortion to a medical abortion. While that includes the mandates for equipment and personnel that must be present, the biggest change is that nurse practitioners will no longer be able to perform the procedure.

Planned Parenthood, in its lawsuit, says that would mean no more abortions performed in Flagstaff, Prescott and Yuma which are staffed only by nurse practitioners. They also said it will mean unnecessary delays in the procedure for patients in the Tucson and Phoenix areas, as women who otherwise could get a medical abortion from a nurse practitioner now will have to wait until a doctor is available.

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Of course, this could always be avoided if the clinics were allowed to use telemed, in which case a physician could consult with each patient individually without actually having a physical presence.  Which is probably why Arizona banned that, too.

News Law and Policy

Three Crisis Pregnancy Centers Served for Breaking California Law

Nicole Knight Shine

The notices of violation issued this month mark the first time authorities anywhere in the state are enforcing the seven-month-old Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act.

The Los Angeles City Attorney is warning three area fake clinics, commonly known as crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), that they’re breaking a new state reproductive disclosure law and could face fines of $500 if they don’t comply.

The notices of violation issued this month mark the first time authorities anywhere in the state are enforcing the seven-month-old Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act, advocates and the state Attorney General’s office indicate.

The office of City Attorney Mike Feuer served the notices on July 15 and July 18 to two unlicensed and one licensed clinic, a representative from the office told Rewire. The Los Angeles area facilities are Harbor Pregnancy Help Center, Los Angeles Pregnancy Services, and Pregnancy Counseling Center.

The law requires the state’s licensed pregnancy-related centers to display a brief statement with a number to call for access to free and low-cost birth control and abortion care, and for unlicensed centers to disclose that they are not medical facilities.

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“Our investigation revealed,” one of the letters from the city attorney warns, “that your facility failed to post the required onsite notice anywhere at your facility and that your facility failed to distribute the required notice either through a printed document or digitally.”

The centers have 30 days from the date of the letter to comply or face a $500 fine for an initial offense and $1,000 for subsequent violations.

“I think this is the first instance of a city attorney or any other authority enforcing the FACT Act, and we really admire City Attorney Mike Feuer for taking the lead,” Amy Everitt, state director of NARAL Pro-Choice California, told Rewire on Wednesday.

Feuer in May unveiled a campaign to crack down on violators, announcing that his office was “not going to wait” amid reports that some jurisdictions had chosen not to enforce the law while five separate court challenges brought by multiple fake clinics are pending.

Federal and state courts have denied requests to temporarily block the law, although appeals are pending before U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In April, Rebecca Plevin of the local NPR affiliate KPCC found that six of eight area fake clinics were defying the FACT Act.

Although firm numbers are hard to come by, around 25 fake clinics, or CPCs, operate in Los Angeles County, according to estimates from a representative of NARAL Pro-Choice California. There are upwards of 1,200 CPCs across the country, according to their own accounting.

Last week, Rewire paid visits to the three violators: Harbor Pregnancy Help Center, Los Angeles Pregnancy Services, and Pregnancy Counseling Center.

Christie Kwan, a nurse manager at Pregnancy Counseling Center, declined to discuss the clinic’s noncompliance, but described their opposition to the state law as a “First Amendment concern.”

All three centers referred questions to their legal counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an Arizona-based nonprofit and frequent defender of discriminatory “religious liberty” laws.

Matt Bowman, senior counsel with ADF, said in an email to Rewire that forcing faith-based clinics to “communicate messages or promote ideas they disagree with, especially on life-and-death issues like abortion,” violates their “core beliefs” and threatens their free speech rights.

“The First Amendment protects all Americans, including pro-life people, from being targeted by a government conspiring with pro-abortion activists,” Bowman said.

Rewire found that some clinics are following the law. Claris Health, which was contacted as part of Feuer’s enforcement campaign in May, includes the public notice with patient intake forms, where it’s translated into more than a dozen languages, CEO Talitha Phillips said in an email to Rewire.

Open Arms Pregnancy Center in the San Fernando Valley has posted the public notice in the waiting room.

“To us, it’s a non-issue,” Debi Harvey, the center’s executive director, told Rewire. “We don’t provide abortion, we’re an abortion-alternative organization, we’re very clear on that. But we educate on all options.”

Even so, reports of deceit by 91 percent of fake clinics surveyed by NARAL Pro-Choice California helped spur the passage of the FACT Act last October. Until recently, a person who Googled “abortion clinic” might be directed to a fake clinic, or CPC.

Oakland last week became the second U.S. city to ban false advertising by facilities that city leaders described as “fronts for anti-abortion activists.” San Francisco passed a similar ordinance in 2011.

News Abortion

Washington Judge: Public Hospitals Must Offer Abortion Care

Nicole Knight Shine

Passed by voter initiative in 1991, the Reproductive Privacy Act says, "The state shall not deny or interfere with a woman's fundamental right to choose or refuse to have an abortion," and that a public hospital may not discriminate against that right.

Public hospitals in Washington state must offer abortion care if they also provide maternity services, a state superior court judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis found that the Skagit Valley Hospital violated the state Reproductive Privacy Act (RPA) by failing to employ staff to perform abortions, and instead referred patients to a Planned Parenthood clinic roughly 29 miles away.

Passed by voter initiative in 1991, the RPA says, “The state shall not deny or interfere with a woman’s fundamental right to choose or refuse to have an abortion,” and that a public hospital may not discriminate against that right. The law does not apply to private medical facilities and individuals.

Skagit Valley Hospital, located in northwest Washington and part of the third-largest public district hospital in the state, is licensed for 137 beds, and offers maternity, emergency, cancer, and cardiac care, among other services. In a lawsuit filed in Skagit County Superior Court last year, Kevan Coffey, a licensed nurse practitioner who lives in Skagit County, charged the public hospital with breaking the law by referring patients who seek abortion care to Planned Parenthood.

In the complaint, Coffey said she was “unable to carry a pregnancy to term without facing severe, life-birth defects,” noting, “I personally want to have all options, including abortion, available to me.”

The hospital, however, contended in court documents that it couldn’t find staff to perform abortions.

The judge didn’t buy it, writing in her decision, “In effect, the Hospital District shrugs its shoulders and informs patients that they will have to find that aspect of their healthcare elsewhere.”

Judge Montoya-Lewis continued, “Compliance with the RPA is not aspirational; it is mandatory.”

Tom Ahearne, an attorney for Skagit Valley Hospital, said the hospital board would be meeting Thursday and has not yet decided whether to appeal, as the Stranger reported.

Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands, told Rewire that the hospital’s practice of referring patients to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bellingham, Washington, imposed a hardship on patients. She said that about one-third of those seeking abortion care in the state have to drive through two or more counties.

“Hospitals that accept public funding ought to live by the laws of the state that they’re in,” Charbonneau said in a phone interview Wednesday. “When the people of Washington voted for this, they were serious. You don’t just get to ignore the law.”

Washington state and California are among the few states with a Reproductive Privacy Act to guarantee an individual’s right to end a pregnancy.

In a statement issued after the decision, representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington, which brought the lawsuit on Coffey’s behalf, called the decision “a huge victory.”

“We hope this ruling makes the promise of the state’s Reproductive Privacy Act a reality for all women across Washington state,” Kathleen Taylor, executive director of the ACLU of Washington, said.

Coffey said in a statement that she was “pleased that the court has affirmed the right of women to have access to the full range of reproductive health care services.”

Ahearne, who represents the hospital, told the Stranger that hospital leaders “feel stuck between a rock and a hard place,” concerned about breaking the law by requiring doctors to perform abortions.

The hospital had argued that it “cannot affirmatively seek to hire [abortion] providers … nor can it require them to do so.”

But the judge countered that the provision in the RPA that carves out exceptions for those who don’t wish to offer abortion care applies to individuals and private medical facilities, not public hospitals.