Claire Caulfield

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Planned Parenthood says Arizona abortion restrictions unconstitutional

PHOENIX – Planned Parenthood Arizona filed suit in federal court Thursday challenging the legality of a number of Arizona abortion restrictions.

“These intrusive measures, based on zero medical evidence, make it unduly difficult for patients to access the health care they need,” said Bryan Howard, president and CEO of the organization.

Howard said they are focusing on three specific restrictions in the state.

Arizona law does not allow nurse practitioners or physicians’ assistants to provide abortions, only doctors can do the procedure. Laws also require patients to see a doctor in-person 24 hours before the procedure. Providers also are banned from prescribing abortion pills via telemedicine.

“Together they create a web of restrictions that have crippled access in the state,” Howard said.

In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court said any abortion restrictions have to be supported by medical evidence that shows the restriction makes procedures safer. Abortion-rights groups have sued to overturn the physician requirement, 24-hour waiting period and telemedicine ban in other states.

Catalina Vergara, the lawyer who filed suit in Tucson’s federal court, said the waiting period and telemedicine ban disproportionally affects women living in rural areas and Native American women.

“This is medically unnecessary and burdens women by forcing them to take time off work or school and travel potentially very long distances to receive care,” Vergara said.

Most of these restrictions were enacted by the Arizona Legislature more than a decade ago. Planned Parenthood Arizona officials said in that time, there has been a 40 percent decline in the number of abortion clinics in the state.

“Leaving 12 of Arizona’s 15 counties – 80 percent – without access at all,” Howard said.

The suit names the Arizona attorney general, Arizona Medical Board, Arizona Department of Health Services and the State Board of Nursing as defendants.

KJZZ has asked those groups for comment.

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