Planned Parenthood Arizona joins others in reviving abortions

PHOENIX — Planned Parenthood Arizona joined several other providers who have restarted abortion care in the state — though only temporarily — after clinics stopped providing service when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that women had no constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

The organization for years performed the most abortions in the state, but ended the practice after the High Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24.

Planned Parenthood and other providers shut down due to legal uncertainty surrounding a pre-state law banning nearly all abortions and a ‘personhood’ law they feared could be used to sue doctors and the nurses who provided this care.

A federal judge blocked the personality law on July 11 after abortion rights groups filed a lawsuit, claiming it was unconstitutionally vague. That prompted some providers to restart services, including two clinics in Phoenix and one in Tucson. Some offer the abortion pill, others offer both the pill and surgical abortions.

Separately, a state judge in Tucson considered the attorney general’s request to lift an injunction barring pre-state law enforcement. Attorney General Mark Brnovich had announced the law was enforceable after the Supreme Court ruling, but later acknowledged the injunction remained in place.

Planned Parenthood Arizona this week began providing both medication and surgical abortions at its Tucson clinic, one of four in the state where it offered abortions. These four and three others managed by the group have never interrupted other care, such as pap smears, contraception and other reproductive services. Planned Parenthood plans to begin offering vasectomies in the fall.

Brittany Fonteno, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said the decision to open just one abortion clinic was because staff were willing to take a risk and start providing services that some Republicans consider it illegal.

“We have suppliers who, even with this bit of legal clarity that we’ve been able to get over the past two weeks, are still not comfortable,” Fonteno said on Friday. “So we chose Tucson because that’s where we had providers who felt comfortable picking up abortion care.”

Other Planned Parenthood clinics may restart abortion care in the coming weeks, she said.

A Tucson judge heard arguments Aug. 19 on Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s request to lift the 1973 injunction blocking enforcement of the state law banning nearly all abortions. She said she would rule on or after September 20. Brnovich said the only reason the law was blocked was the Roe v. Wade.

Planned Parenthood and its Arizona affiliate told Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson that she should only allow enforcement against people who are not physicians so that other abortion restrictions the Legislature has enacted since Roe remain relevant.

The court battles in Arizona are just two of many battles unfolding in predominantly Republican states across the country following Roe’s overturning by the conservative Supreme Court majority. There are legal battles over whether abortion bans — either those that predate Roe or those passed to trigger bans in the event Roe is overturned — can be enforced.

Currently, 12 states prohibit abortion at any time during pregnancy, and two more do so when fetal heart activity can be detected – usually around six weeks gestational age and often before women realize they are pregnant. .

Arizona’s near-total abortion ban was first enacted decades before Arizona was granted statehood in 1912, and its only exception is if the mother’s life is in danger. .

The personality law was passed in 2021 and was immediately challenged in federal court as unconstitutionally vague. The law grants all legal rights to unborn children. Abortion rights groups have said the law puts providers at risk of prosecution for various crimes.

U.S. District Judge Douglas Rayes declined to block it, saying an appeal was filed prematurely. After Roe was struck down, he heard another challenge and in July blocked the application, saying it was unconstitutionally vague.

Rayes agreed with the groups who filed a lawsuit to block the law, writing that “everyone guesses,” as the state has acknowledged, what criminal laws abortion providers might be breaking if they don’t. they perform otherwise legal abortions.

Rayes had blocked another part of the law last September, one to charge doctors who knowingly terminate pregnancies solely because of a fetal genetic defect such as Down syndrome. It also authorized lawsuits against anyone who helped raise money or pay for abortions performed solely because of a genetic abnormality.

Rayes said last year those provisions were also unconstitutionally vague. But the US Supreme Court overturned that decision shortly after overturning the Roe ruling.

On Friday, the Center for Reproductive Rights called on Rayes to re-block the section making abortions illegal if performed because of genetic problems with the fetus. A hearing date has not been set.

This year, the legislature passed a law making abortions illegal after 15 weeks of pregnancy. This law is due to come into force on September 24. It is partly the conflict between the total pre-state abortion ban and the new law that the Pima County judge must consider when deciding whether to lift the 1973 injunction.

“So I think what this tells us is that abortion, even though it’s still legal right now in Arizona, the future of abortion is still uncertain,” Forteno said.

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