In Lawsuit, Planned Parenthood Challenges State, Seeks to Void Several Abortion Laws

By Fischer, Howard | AZ Daily Star, April 12, 2019 | Go to article overview

In Lawsuit, Planned Parenthood Challenges State, Seeks to Void Several Abortion Laws


Fischer, Howard, AZ Daily Star


PHOENIX — Planned Parenthood filed a broad-based legal attack Thursday on a host of Arizona laws and regulations governing abortion, claiming the rights of women are being violated.

The lawsuit filed in federal court lists restrictions imposed over multiple years by the Arizona Legislature on who can perform what abortion-related services, requiring women to make two trips to a clinic and forbidding doctors from prescribing abortion medications via telemedicine.

Each of those, according to attorney Catalina Vergara, who represents Planned Parenthood, infringes on the constitutional right of women to terminate a pregnancy.

But the legal papers seeking to void those laws also ask a federal judge to look not just at the individual hurdles being placed in the path of women but what they say is the cumulative effect.

That has resulted in closure of Planned Parenthood clinics in Yuma, Goodyear, Prescott Valley and Chandler. And the Flagstaff clinic can provide abortion services only one day a week.

Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said the result is borne out in the fact that the number of abortions performed has dropped from about 10,000 a year a dozen years ago to fewer than 6,500 a year now.

Some of these same laws have been challenged in the past. That includes the mandate for patients to visit a clinic at least 24 hours ahead of an abortion and a prohibition against anyone but a licensed physician from surgically terminating a pregnancy.

In a 2011 ruling, state appellate court Judge Peter Swann rejected arguments that the restrictions impose undue restrictions on a woman’s constitutional right to choose. And he said it is legally irrelevant that nurse practitioners, who are more available in rural areas that abortion-trained doctors, have a comparable safety record.

But Planned Parenthood attorney Alice Clapman pointed out Thursday that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that abortion restrictions need to be judged on whether they create an “undue burden” on women. What that means, she said, is that courts look at the statutes “to determine if the benefits of the restriction outweigh the burdens. …

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