Planned Parenthood Bails on Lawsuit Challenging New Abortion Laws

Planned parenthood today formally filed paperwork to dismiss its lawsuit challenging several abortion laws that took effect in September.

The laws, most of which were passed by the Arizona Legislature in 2009, place new restrictions on abortion procedures and make it far more difficult for women to end a pregnancy.

"Planned Parenthood continues to believe that these restrictions are unconstitutional and threaten women's access to full reproductive health care," Bryan Howard, CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, says. "However, given the current dire economic environment so many of our patients face, paired with a legislature that has already reduced health care access, we have decided that, at least for now, it is better to concentrate our resources on meeting women's health care needs rather than diverting further energy to a courtroom battle."

Below is a brief description of the laws that went into effect in September:

- Health care professionals will now be permitted to deny women access to health care, including birth control at the pharmacy and emergency contraception in the ER, if the health care professional objects to the requested care based on his or her personal beliefs.

- Women will be required to have an in-person appointment with a physician to listen to a state mandated script of information 24 hours before an abortion appointment, regardless of the distance women will have to travel for the 15 minute meeting.

- Trained, experienced nurse practitioners are banned from providing early surgical abortion. This is in addition to a 2011 ban on nurse practitioners dispensing abortion-by-pill (Planned Parenthood continues to challenge this restriction in a separate lawsuit).

- Parent or guardian signatures on consent forms for abortion patients under 18 years old will now have to be notarized at a bank or business that offers notarization services.

Under the new abortion-by-pill law, stiffer regulations are placed on the procedure that subject the medication to the same regulations as surgical abortion.

In other words, because of the law, only doctors are allowed to administer the pill (a.k.a. hand it to a patient and tell them to swallow it -- not exactly rocket science). Physician's assistants and nurses are no longer allowed to hand a woman a pill, as they had been permitted in the


Doing so, officials from Planned Parenthood tell New Times, would block access of early-term abortions to women living in rural communities because it's hard to find doctors in those areas willing -- or trained -- to perform abortions.

"For the first time in more than 30 years, Arizona women will have far fewer health care options available to them," Howard says. "There will be no known provider of abortion outside of Metro Phoenix or Tucson."

The group says that by preventing early-term abortions by over-regulating the pill, it will lead to more late-term, potentially riskier abortions.

To put things into perspective as far as how much sense Arizona's abortion laws make, the Legislature also passed a bill this year that requires women getting an abortion to sign a
document promising they aren't aborting the pregnancy based on sex, and another promising they aren't aborting their pregnancy based on race. Under the law, anyone caught doing so could be slapped with a class-three felony.

"There is no indication that [people aborting babies because of race or gender] is even an issue," Planned Parenthood Arizona spokeswoman Cynde Cerf tells New Times.

Because of the new laws, Planned Parenthood was forced to stop providing abortions at six of its Arizona locations.

Women in Arizona can still get abortions through Planned Parenthood, but only at the organization's facilities in Glendale, Tucson, and Tempe. If you live in, say, St. Johns, good luck.

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James King
Contact: James King