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Arizona House approves bill allowing unannounced inspections of abortion clinics

The Arizona House of Representatives [official website] approved a bill on Tuesday that would allow for unannounced inspections of licensed abortion clinics. The Republican-backed measure [HB 2284, text], which passed in the House 34-22, would delete a provision in a state law that mandates that an administrative warrant be obtained from a judge to inspect any of the nine licensed abortion clinics in Arizona. The state does not require a warrant to inspect other medical facilities. Supporters of the bill say that this is not a pro-life versus pro-choice issue, but about the healthiness of a facility where medical procedures are being performed. However, opponents of the measure, including Arizona state Representative Lisa Otondo [official website], believe the bill to be unconstitutional, and will be challenged in court if it becomes law. The measure must still be approved by the state Senate and signed by Governor Jan Brewer [official website] before it can become law and join the 10 other states that currently allow for such surprise inspections.

There has been much controversy surrounding reproductive rights [JURIST backgrounder] in the US. Last month the South Dakota House of Representatives passed a bill [JURIST report] that would prohibit individuals from having abortions based on the gender of the fetus. In January the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in Alaska Superior Court challenging a new regulation that seeks to prevent Medicaid from covering elective abortions. In November a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana issued a temporary injunction [JURIST report] against an Indiana law regulating abortion facilities. Also in November Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne petitioned [JURIST report] the US Supreme Court to reinstate an Arizona law and overturn the holding of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which in August struck down [JURIST report] a law that would strip Medicaid funding from doctors and clinics that perform abortions. In October a federal judge dismissed a challenge [JURIST report] to Arizona's race based abortion laws. In May a federal court struck down the state's 20-week abortion ban [JURIST report]. Some scholars have contended that lawsuits challenging state regulations excluding abortion from comprehensive insurance plans could be the vehicle through which courts can reframe the constitutional basis of abortion rights [JURIST op-ed].

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