Gov. Jan Brewer signed legislation Tuesday allowing the state Department of Health to make unannounced inspections of abortion clinics without first getting a warrant from a judge.
Proponents of HB 2284 said there is no reason for a special exemption for these clinics from the same regulations that apply to all other health care facilities. But foes said they are needed because there is a heightened need for privacy both for patients and staff.
Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, said Brewer's signature is no surprise.
“She has been hostile to women's health care, and Planned Parenthood's role in providing women's health care since the day she took office,” he said.
The governor has never hidden either her opposition to abortion – or her animosity toward Planned Parenthood.
“I do not support the goals of Planned Parenthood because I believe in life,” she said in a 2012 interview with Capitol Media Services. “They believe in choice. So let's just cut right through the fat and tell it like it is.”
The new law could wind up in court before it takes effect later this summer.
In a 2004 ruling, a federal appeals court voided an identical provision, ruling the statute's authorization of “boundless, warrantless search of physicians' offices” by state health officials violates constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. That resulted in a consent agreement which said the state would first get a warrant – an agreement that Howard said remains in effect.
But Cathi Herrod, president of the anti-abortion Center for Arizona Policy that helped craft the measure, said that ruling was based on the fact Arizona did not regulate abortion clinics at the time. She said the state has since adopted comprehensive rules, making the unannounced and warrantless inspections proper.
Howard said, though, it remains to be seen whether his organization will mount the legal challenge or leave it to one of the other abortion providers in the state. He said these lawsuits take a lot of time and financial resources.
But, lawsuit or not, Howard said the new law – and the power it gives the state health director –underscores the importance of the November election.
“If that person has been given the seal of approval by Cathi Herrod, you can absolutely expect that this law will be used to harass abortion providers and their patients,” he said.