05.07.10 – Earlier today, a longtime legal challenge against a 1999 Arizona law regulating abortion providers has come to a close and a 10-year stay blocking the law’s enforcement has been lifted by the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.
After years of negotiations, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the state have agreed to significant changes to the regulations. The result of that settlement, along with a 2004 appellate court decision, have resulted in considerably less intrusive requirements for abortion providers.
Among other burdensome provisions, doctors and clinics would have been required to turn over complete medical records, risking the confidentiality of their patients. In addition, the state health department would have been allowed to conduct unannounced searches of abortion providers’ offices without a warrant, substantially intruding upon doctors’ practice of medicine.
Under the new regulations, the health department must go to court for a warrant in order to obtain patient records with identifying information and the dates of inspections must be scheduled with abortion facilities ahead of time.
“We are very pleased with the settlement we reached. It is a significant victory for women in Arizona and their doctors,” said Bonnie Scott Jones, Deputy Director of the U.S. Legal Program at the Center. “The original law violated patient confidentiality and intruded upon the practice of medicine — in effect, imposing new burdens and costs on abortion providers without any justification.”
The Center originally challenged the law in 1999 in the case Tucson Women’s Clinic v. Eden. A district court struck down portions of the law in 2001, and in 2004, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld that decision and ruled that the abortion clinic should also be given the opportunity to present evidence in a trial court that the law unconstitutionally placed an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to abortion. Instead of going to trial, the Center and the state entered into negotiations around the regulations.