Center Wins Appeal Against Arizona Abortion Regulation and Day in Court

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Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed with the Center for Reproductive Rights’ challenge against an Arizona law regulating abortion providers. Among other things, physicians and clinics would have been required to turn over patient records and be subject to unannounced inspections without warrants. Now, the Center is going back to trial court to prove that the law is unconstitutional.

In a wise move, the court upheld a previous trial court’s decision, ruling that the law violates a patient’s right to privacy as well as a doctor’s right against unreasonable searches, and that some terms in the law are too vague.

The Center had also argued that the law was unconstitutional because it places an "undue burden" on a woman’s right to an abortion. The Ninth Circuit court ruled that the plaintiffs should be given the opportunity to present evidence in a trial court to prove that point.

Back in 1999, Arizona passed the law requiring that all doctor’s offices and clinics where five or more first-trimester abortions were performed per month, or any second trimester abortions, comply with new stringent regulations.

"This law in no way protects women’s health, as Arizona claims. And it certainly doesn’t serve any other valid state purpose," Bonnie Scott Jones, Center for Reproductive Rights attorney said. "Instead, the law blatantly intrudes on a woman’s private relationship with her doctor and interferes with a doctor’s right to practice. The Ninth Circuit is allowing the plaintiffs to have their day in court to prove our claim."

As the Ninth Circuit recognized, "a significant increase in the cost of abortion or the supply of abortion providers and clinics can, at some point, constitute a substantial obstacle to a significant number of women choosing an abortion".

Arizona abortion facilities would also be subject to a slew of mandatory standards, ranging from personnel requirements to architectural changes. The Center argues that such regulations would jeopardize abortion providers’ ability to stay in business, effectively placing a burden on a woman’s right to an abortion.

The plaintiffs in the case include Tucson Woman’s Clinic, Old Pueblo Family Planning, Abortion Services of Phoenix, Robert H. Tamis, MD, PC, and William Richardson, M.D. The plaintiffs are represented by Bonnie Scott Jones of the Center for Reproductive Rights.