PHOENIX - Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's signing of bill allowing for snap inspections at abortion clinics will likely lead to another legal battle.
Brewer on Tuesday signed House Bill 2284, which allows the state Department of Health Services to conduct surprise inspections at abortion clinics without first obtaining a search warrant. She issued no statement with her list of enactments.
Litigation is likely because a 2010 lawsuit settlement over a 2004 state law calls for a search warrant to be obtained before an inspection. The deal came after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that snap inspections at the clinics are illegal because women's privacy rights are at risk.
"HB2284 literally opens the door to harassment of women and their health care providers as these women are receiving abortion care," said Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona. "We continue to believe that the legislation violates the rules governing abortion clinic inspections to which the state specifically agreed in 2010. It's on that basis that we expect a legal challenge."
Republicans say the change is needed to ensure that abortion clinics can be inspected without delays. They say the bill is an effort to keep women safe.
Democrats say that removing the warrant requirement would open clinics to harassment by unfriendly regulators and could subject the state to even more lawsuits over its abortion rules. Democrats also say the bill is unnecessary, since only one warrant has been issued in the past four years.
The one warrant sought since then by the state Department of Health Services came just two months ago, days before HB 2284 had its first hearing.
Planned Parenthood of Arizona has questioned the timing of the warrant, which was based on its own report of a surgical complication a year ago. The group didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the signing.
The health services agency denies there is any link between the legislation and the search. An initial report found issues with some staff licenses and patient care, but Planned Parenthood says they have either provided the needed paperwork or dispute the findings.
The search warrant bill was pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative group that wrote a now-vetoed religious freedom bill that angered gays, civil rights proponents and the business community.
President Cathi Herrod has said the bill involving abortion clinics is needed to protect women from rogue doctors such as Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia physician found guilty last year of murder in the deaths of three babies that prosecutors said were delivered alive and killed.
Her group's effort drew criticism from Democrats during a Senate floor debate last week.
"This bill simply opens the door for abuse and does nothing to keep women safe -- in fact it's just another harassment tool supporters are pushing to force a lawsuit," said Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford, D-Tucson.
But anti-abortion Republicans tend to support any restrictions.
"This bill I see as a pro-life bill, and I support this because I will support any bill that is a pro-life bill," said Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa.
Other parts of the bill signed Tuesday make it a misdemeanor for someone to help a minor get around parental consent laws and require facilities that perform abortions to report any live births and subsequent resuscitation efforts. It also allows any county or city attorney to defend the law, an effort to make sure someone defends the law if a future attorney general declines to do so.
Republicans who control the Legislature have passed a series of laws targeting abortion in recent years, and Brewer has signed them all.
However, bans on Medicaid money for Planned Parenthood non-abortion services and on abortions after 20 weeks have been blocked by federal courts. And new rules that limit the use of the most common abortion drug are on hold after a 9th Circuit panel temporarily blocked the regulations, saying women likely would suffer irreparable harm if the rules take effect.