Tucson Women's Center v. Arizona Medical Board

09.29.2009

Primary Content

Case requesting that the U.S. District Court of Arizona invalidate certain provisions of Arizona House Bill 2564 that would significantly reduce women's access to abortion services in Arizona and put physicians at risk of losing their licenses.

Plaintiff(s): Tucson's Woman's Center, Dr. William Richardson, Family Planning Associates, Dr. Paul Isaacson, and Dr. Frank Laudonio

Center Attorneys: Suzanne Novak and Michelle Movahed

Co-Counsel: Simpson Thacher &amp, Bartlett, LLP and LaVoy &amp, Chernoff, PC

Issue: Arizona Waiting Period

Summary: In 2009, the Arizona Legislature passed and Governor Jan Brewer signed into law AZ HB 2564, an omnibus anti-abortion bill. The Act contains a number of intrusive and burdensome provisions.

As it is written, the Act would prevent women from obtaining an abortion procedure on their first visit to a provider. Instead, women must hear state-mandated ideological information on that visit and then wait at least 24 hours before returning again for the abortion procedure. These requirements would impose significant, immediate harms on identifiable groups of vulnerable women, including women in abusive relationships, low-income women, and women suffering from illness. They would prevent a substantial number of these women from obtaining abortions at all, and the requirements will impose significantly increased risks on the health and well-being of others. Accordingly, the provision will unduly burden a woman's right to choose an abortion in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Another provision prevents a physician from charging a patient for any medical services once she makes any inquiry about abortion, at that point, the physician must wait until after the mandated counseling and waiting period transpire before the physician can bill the patient. This provision is clearly intended to financially penalize those who provide abortions, however, at the same time, it is so incomprehensibly vague that it interferes with the ability of a broad array of physicians to provide appropriate medical services and receive payment for them. Accordingly, it subjects medical providers to unintelligible and arbitrary standards, at the risk of losing their medical licenses.

Other provisions prevent anyone other than physicians from performing surgical abortions, even though other qualified health providers have safely provided abortion care for many years, and require that only physicians are permitted to provide the mandated counseling information for all abortions. If enacted, the latter requirement would threaten to shut down certain clinics entirely where non-physicians currently provide medical abortions, making women travel farther and incur extra expenses to obtain care. For low-income women, the resulting cost increase could be prohibitive. This, like the other provisions in the Act, unnecessarily burdens women's choices without providing any health benefits.

The Act also imposes burdens making it even more difficult for pregnant minors to obtain care. For example, it mandates that the minor have her parent's or guardian's consent form notarized. Moreover, if a minor wishes to bypass parental consent because she believes herself to be mature enough to make independent decisions, she also must provide "clear and convincing evidence" to a court of her maturity.

In September of 2009, the Center challenged the Act in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. The Center's motion to temporarily enjoin the Act was denied. However, the plaintiffs in a similar case brought in Arizona state court challenging the law obtained a temporary injunction enjoining certain parts of the Act. That court enjoined the requirements that the state-mandated information be provided orally and in person, that only physicians provide surgical abortions, and that parental consent forms be notarized.

The Center voluntarily dismissed its case in federal court and is currently helping abortion providers in Arizona to comply with the current restrictions.

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