PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed into law a bill that ended special health-inspection rules for abortion facilities, an action proponents say will help prevent dangerous conditions that women do not face at other regulated medical providers.
“This law ensures abortion clinics are subject to the same inspection standards as all other medical facilities in the state,” said Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, which helped write the law.
“Abortion-clinic inspections matter, and it is unconscionable that they would be exempt from commonsense health-and-safety standards,” she said.
Herrod added Brewer’s signing of the bill into law was “another tremendous victory” for Arizona’s pro-life movement.
“Today, we celebrate this victory, but our work will never be done until every woman and preborn child is protected from the dangerous and deadly practices of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry.”
Arizona Right to Life, another backer of the law, issued a statement saying, “Why should abortion facilities in Arizona be held to a lower standard when the medical care of women is at stake? Only a blinding ideology could block such commonsense measures.”
The law also criminalizes helping a minor to procure an abortion in violation of the state’s parental-consent requirements.
Andrew Wilder, Brewer’s spokesman, said the bill ensures that state health authorities can “appropriately protect the health and safety of all parents.”
While the Arizona Department of Health Services can conduct warrantless and unannounced inspections of regulated facilities, including hospitals, dialysis centers and nursing homes, it could not perform unannounced inspections of abortion facilities unless it has obtained a warrant, according to the Arizona Republic. Health officials need to get a warrant even in response to a complaint of wrongdoing.
A 1999 Arizona law allowing unannounced inspections of abortion facilities was affected by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in 2004, which said inspections were too broad and would allow the state to have access to patient information. A legal agreement in 2009 allowed more state oversight but did not allow unannounced inspections.
Planned Parenthood of Arizona and the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, which oppose the law, are considering whether to file a legal challenge against it.
Bryan Howard, the Arizona Planned Parenthood affiliate’s president, told the Republic that the bill would create “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.”
Abortion-facility inspections have come under further focus after the 2013 trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted for the murder of three babies who had survived abortions.
Testimony had indicated that Gosnell and his staff snipped the necks of more than 100 infants who survived abortion.
A 2010 federal raid on his abortion facility exposed foul conditions: blood-stained rooms, filthy equipment, unsanitary practices and the storage of fetal remains in plastic food containers. The abortion center had not been inspected since 1993.
The Pennsylvania grand jury report on Gosnell said that Pennsylvania’s Department of Health had decided to stop inspecting abortion facilities “for political reasons.”
“The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro,” the report said.
Concern over abortion-facility regulations has also increased in New York, after the New York Post reported that some New York City eateries and tanning salons undergo more regular inspections than do the state’s abortion facilities.
Only about 25 of the approximately 225 abortion providers in New York state are under the supervision of state regulators, the Post’s investigation found.
Of these 25, eight went without inspection from 2000-2012, and five were inspected only once.