News Law and Policy

Arizona Governor Signs Bill Authorizing Warrantless Surprise Inspections of Abortion Clinics

Teddy Wilson

Under the new law, officials will be allowed to inspect any clinic during business hours, even if there is no reasonable cause to believe the clinic is violating regulations.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill into law Tuesday that would allow state Department of Health Services officials to conduct warrantless surprise inspections on any of the nine clinics that provide abortion services in the state. Under the new law, officials will be allowed to inspect any clinic during business hours, even if there is no reasonable cause to believe the clinic is violating regulations. 

HB 2284, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Peoria), repeals a section of Arizona law that requires a judge to approve any spot inspections of abortion clinics. The law did not apply to inspections of any other medical facilities. According to the Guttmacher Institute, Arizona joins ten other states that allow the warrantless surprise inspection of abortion clinics.

In the state house, the bill was approved with a 34-22 vote. The senate approved the legislation on a 17-13 vote along party lines, with supporters citing everything from protecting women’s health to religious opposition to abortion. The legislation could go into effect as early as next week. 

The legislation was backed by the conservative think tank the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP), which “promotes and defends the foundational values of life, marriage and family, and religious liberty.” Alessandra Soler, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, told The Arizona Republic that the Center for Arizona Policy has a history of promoting unconstitutional legislation that costs Arizona taxpayers money for the state to defend. “These are laws that were one after another an effort by CAP to impose their own religious and moral views on the women of Arizona,” said Soler.

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A 1999 law passed in Arizona also approved the warrantless inspections of abortion clinics in the state, but this law was struck down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004. The judges ruled that the statute’s authorization of “warrantless, unbounded inspections of their offices” violated constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

If challenged, this would be among a series of cases in which anti-choice bills passed by the Arizona legislature have been challenged in the courts. Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked regulations on medication abortion, and another lawsuit has also been filed challenging those regulations. The Supreme Court refused to hear Arizona’s ban on abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation, which lower courts struck down previously.

In a statement, the governor’s spokesperson, Andrew Wilder, said that the legislation will “ensure that the Arizona Department of Health Services has the authority to appropriately protect the health and safety of all patients.”

Bryan Howard, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said in a statement that while Planned Parenthood supports laws that protect patient safety, this law “does nothing but open the door to provider and patient harassment. This is yet another law that is in search of a problem rather than a positive solution.”

News Abortion

Mississippi Governor Signs Bill Outlawing Common Abortion Procedure

Teddy Wilson

"Governor Bryant just signed a clear attack on women's health care as part of a plan to ban abortion across the board,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R), who has said that it is his goal to “end abortion” in the state, signed a bill Friday that criminalizes a medical procedure often used after miscarriages and during second-trimester abortion care.

“We’re making Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child,” Bryant said in a post on Twitter.

HB 519, sponsored by Rep. Sam Mims (R-McComb), would prohibit a physician from performing the dilation and evacuation (D and E) abortion procedure unless it is necessary to “prevent serious health risk” to the pregnant person.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement that the law is not based on medicine.

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“Governor Bryant just signed a clear attack on women’s health care as part of a plan to ban abortion across the board,” Laguens said. “Planned Parenthood will continue to fight to protect the rights of our patients and their access to safe medical care, no matter what.”

Similar bills have been introduced this year in several states. The bills are copies of legislation drafted by the anti-choice group known as the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).

State courts have blocked such measures passed by GOP lawmakers in Oklahoma and Kansas. West Virginia’s Republican-led legislature in March voted to override the veto of a similar bill.

The law takes effect on July 1.

CORRECTION:​ A previous version of this story stated that “federal courts” have blocked D and E bans in Oklahoma and Kansas, but only state courts have blocked such measures. We regret the error.

News Abortion

Arizona Governor: Force Doctors to Provide Outdated Medication Abortion Care

Nicole Knight Shine

The FDA's change to medication abortion guidelines undercuts other laws in Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio, and North Dakota that require physicians to follow the agency's 2000 label recommendation for mifepristone.

Arizona’s Republican governor ignored updated labeling issued this week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), signing a bill Thursday that will force doctors to follow obsolete medication abortion guidelines.

The Arizona bill, SB 1324, limits medication abortion care to the first seven weeks of pregnancy, requires extra in-person doctor visits, and mandates a higher medication dosage than reinforced by a large body of medical evidenceand now the FDA.

The FDA’s updated guidelines on a pill used to induce abortion support a lower dose, fewer doctor visits, and expanded use to ten weeks of pregnancy. The agency revised the labeling based on data and information submitted by the drug manufacturer Danco.

Gov. Doug Ducey (R) in a statement Thursday night acknowledged the GOP measure’s flaws.

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“At the time that SB 1324 was passed, the FDA had not updated its guidelines in 15 years, and there was no indication that an update was imminent,” Ducey said. “I recognize that given the unexpected actions by the FDA, some changes may need to be made in a later bill, and I stand ready to consider those changes when they reach my desk.”

Sources at the state capitol said that SB 1324’s sponsor, state Sen. Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix), was expected to amend the measure with another bill she is sponsoring, SB 1112. It’s unclear whether the changes would adhere to the new FDA labeling.

Cathi Herrod, president of the anti-choice group known as the Center for Arizona Policy, sent out a mass email on Friday about the FDA labeling, saying that group is “working with lawmakers and exploring all options as to what steps can and should be taken.”

Abortion rights activists were swift to condemn Ducey’s action.

“This bill doubles down on Arizona’s politically motivated crusade to force bad medicine on women,” David Brown, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in an emailed statement. “A law requiring women to receive twentieth-century medical care in the twenty-first century is mean-spirited and offensive.”

The FDA’s action on Tuesday also undercut laws in Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio, and North Dakota that require physicians to follow the agency’s 2000 label recommendation for mifepristone, known by the brand name Mifeprex. The pill is one of two used to medically induce an abortion. Patients take mifepristone, followed by a later dosage of misoprostol. The original FDA label instructed providers to administer both doses in the office and have a follow-up visit in the office.

Courts have blocked the GOP-pushed medication abortion restrictions in Oklahoma and North Dakota. Arizona lawmakers in 2012 enacted a nearly identical medication-abortion restriction law, which the courts permanently blocked.

Ducey on Thursday also signed Republican-backed bills to outlaw fetal tissue research and bar state employees from donating to Planned Parenthood.

“The governor’s action today, particularly with regard to SB 1324, was disappointing but not unexpected,” Jodi Liggett, vice president of public affairs with Planned Parenthood Arizona, said in a text message to Rewire. “This administration has made it clear that it cares more about satisfying an extremist base than it does about women’s health. That was made crystal clear by the nonsensical action of signing a bill that has been made moot by the FDA’s action.”

Liggett continued, “Undoubtedly there will be more legislation to further tie the hands of Arizona physicians. When politicians practice medicine, it’s women who suffer.”

Arizona Republicans hold an 18-12 state senate majority and a 36-24 edge in the house.